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John Tillotson a Post English Reformation Preacher

From Londonhua WIKI

John Tillotson a Post English Reformation Preacher

by Christopher Tillotson

John Tillotson a Post English Reformation Preacher
084A0035 Copy - Copy.jpg
John Tillotson
Position Dean of Canterbury, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, and Archbishop of Canterbury
Birth and Death Years 1630-1694

Abstract

Through this milestone I gained knowledge about the history of the English Reformation, and how my ancestor, John Tillotson, fit into the historical event. I had learned briefly about the Reformation in high school, but this project gave me the chance to go much deeper. I have had an interest in John Tillotson for some time, but never had the chance to study him in the depth I have here in London. My main takeaway from this project was a working understanding of the English Reformation, and how John Tillotson continued to shape Catholic-Protestant history in the time following.

Introduction

This milestone focuses on the history of the English Reformation under the Tudors and the connection the Reformation shares with John Tillotson a clergyman of the Church of England who lived from 1630-1694. The milestone also explores points of tension between the Catholic and Protestant churches. The amount of writing about this time period is expansive, but my milestone is unique because it links the English Reformation to the periods that followed, specifically focusing on John Tillotson's role as a preacher. This project illuminates how the Church of England formed and the characteristics it has today. This project also highlights Protestant-Catholic tension, and that people were not always as religiously tolerant as they are today.

Finding information on the history of the English Reformation was easy, however, finding information on John Tillotson was very difficult. Tillotson has become somewhat of a footnote in a larger history, and it took a lot of searching to find the information I was looking for. I think this milestone paints a primarily fact based story, but also shows paints a picture of what John Tillotson was really like. I always like to think of history as a story, and once you unlock the story it becomes easier to gain insight into the topic. The background gave me a comprehensive understanding, and it became easy to retell that story in the video I produced as my deliverable.

Section 1: Background


The English Reformation


Overview

The English Reformation refers to the time period and course of events that caused England to break away from the "Catholic Church" and form the Anglican "Church of England". This change was driven and contested starting with Henry VIII, and continued to be driven by later English monarchs. This was also coupled with a desire of the English people for reform because of the corrupt state of the Catholic Church at the time.[1] This time period and the aftermath can be characterized by both high Catholic-Protestant tension and violence. The following is a brief history of the English Reformation to provide context for John Tillotson's life as a preacher in post reformation England.

Origins with Henry VIII of England (English Reformation)

When Martin Luther dispatched his 95 thesis in Germany during 1517 Henry VIII, the English Monarch at the time, refuted the anti-catholic doctrine.[2] In the year 1521 Henry VIII published a work, in conjunction with Thomas More, titled "Assertio Septem Sacramentorum" (Defense of the Seven Sacraments) refuting Luther's teaching.[3] In this work Henry VIII defended transubstantiation, the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as well as masses for the dead. The secondary motive for creating this work was also to promote himself in England as well as abroad.[4] Henry VIII would later be awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X.[5] At this point it would seem impossible that Henry VIII would later become the most influential person in leading England into the reformation, but that is exactly what would transpire.

At this time religious unrest had already begun to take hold in England as many believed the Catholic Church to have corrupt flaws.[6][7] Later Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon, was unable to produce a male heir to the throne, and this began to trouble the king greatly.[8] The king came to believe that God was purposely not giving him a son in accordance with the Bible [9] in the book of Leviticus 20:21 it says "If a man marries his brother's wife it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless." Catherine had previously been married to Henry VIII's brother and for this reason Henry believed he was childless, and that he needed to seek a papal annulment from Pope Clement VII.[10] However due to the Sacking of Rome Clement was unable to comply with Henry's request.[11] At this time Henry had also developed an interest in having Anne Boleyn replace Catherine as his queen.[12] This desire for an heir eventually led Henry to take matters into his own hands by convincing Parliament to create the Church of England during the years from 1534-1539, officially separating England from the Catholic Church.[13] Henry VIII a man once praised by the Pope for his devotion had now severed England's ties to the papacy.

Edward VI of England (Protestant Reformation)

Despite all the trouble Henry VIII went through Anne Boleyn would also not be the one to produce Henry's heir.[14] His third wife Jane Seymour would produce his heir Edward VI.[15] Henry VIII would die in January 1547 leaving his young son Edward to take up his throne at the age on 9.[16] Unlike his father's rule which had started the reformation as a result of political circumstance Edward would continue the English Reformation in a Protestant manner ridding the church of many Catholic practices. In 1552 the word mass was removed and communion wafers were no longer distributed in religious services.[17] This distinctive change to a Protestant Church of England caused a great deal of civil unrest due to rebellions during Edward's short reign.[18] On July 6th, 1553 when Edward after being ill for some time died at the age of 15.[19] Before his death Edward attempted to stop the throne from passing to his Catholic half sister Mary by bestowing it upon another relative Jane Grey.

Mary I of England or "Bloody Mary" (Catholic Restoration)

Edward VI's plan failed and power was transferred to Mary I of England on July 18th, 1553.[20] Mary being a devout Catholic brought it upon herself to undo what her father Henry VIII and her half brother Edward VI had done to transform Christianity in England. Mary either reinstated and appointed bishops back into the Church of England, and appointed Cardinal Reginald Pole as Archbishop of Canterbury who had bee previously exiled.[21] She was conflicted about her role as head of the Church of England because she believed leading the church was a duty that belonged to the Pope in Rome.[22] For this reason Mary made it a priority to reinstate papal authority in the Church of England. This took place in 1554 when Cardinal Pole reversed the excommunication of England and all anti-papal legislation was repealed.[23] Mary gained her name "Bloody Mary" as a result of the sheer number of devout protestants she put to death during her reign. Mary's long term success was dependent on a Catholic heir who would continue her polices after her death. For this reason Mary I married Philip of Spain.[24] However, she would die in 1558 childless leaving no Catholic heir to continue her work.

Elizabeth I of England (Elizabethan Settlement)

After Mary's death her sister Elizabeth I took control of the throne. It was evident from the beginning that Elizabeth would undo all that Mary had done, and make a strong effort to restore England to its Protestant ways. One of the main driving reasons Elizabeth chose to do this was that she, being the daughter of Anne Boelyn was viewed as illegitimate by the Catholic Church.[25] Elizabeth would rule until her death in 1603 with her hallmark legislation being the Elizabethan Settlement.[26] This settlement was comprised of two separate acts passed by Parliament. The first act was "The Act of Supremacy" which once again separated the Church of England from Rome and the Pope. The second act was the "Act of Uniformity" which created the basic framework for the modern protestant Church of England which exists today.[27] The Church of England would continue to evolve over the years, and 27 years later John Tillotson would be born.

Life of John Tillotson


Early Life and Education

John Tillotson was born in a small village Sowerby, Yorkshire during 1630. [28][29] However very little is known about his early childhood other than the fact that his father was a Puritan clothier named Robert Tillotson. The fact that Tillotson grew up under a Puritan father would have distanced him from Catholics at an early age and develop a strong sense of religion. His mother, Mary Tillotson, was known for her great virtue but it was said that she "became unhappy for many years of her life in her loss of understanding".[30] This suggests Mary may have had some kind of mental illness unable to be diagnosed properly at the time. Tillotson was said to have received his early education from his father Robert before attending grammar school.[31] The next commonly acknowledged event in Tillotson's life is his studies at Clare Hall, Cambridge where he would become a fellow and graduate with his bachelors of the arts in 1650.[32] He went on to receive his masters of the arts in 1654.[33]

Early Religious Career

Tillotson was ordained into the Church of England in 1661.[34] He would begin his preaching career at Lincon's Inn in London.[35] Later in 1664 he became a preacher at St. Lawrence Jewry where he would gain notice for his talents giving sermons.[36] In 1661 Tillotson would attend the Savory Conference which was aimed at reconciling the different religious groups in England at the time.[37] This occurred shortly before the act of uniformity united the Church of England in 1662.[38] Tillotson agreed to the act of uniformity, but it is important to note that many of his mentors would refuse.[39] Tillotson would also be married in St. Lawrence Jewry during the year 1664 to Elizabeth French the niece of Oliver Cromwell a man who had been the monarch in England from 1653-1658.[40] In the 1660's Tillotson had developed a great zeal against the Catholic Church in Rome and published a work titled "Rule of Faith" in response to recent works from Rome.[41]

Dean of Canterbury

Tillotson became the Dean of Canterbury by the order of Charles II in 1672.[42] In 1676 John Tillotson's brother, Joshua Tillotson, would die suddenly and Tillotson would dispatch Timothy Bentley to inform his father Robert of his passing.[43] It was at this time that Tillotson published "A Discourse Against Transubstantiation" and "A Discourse Against Purgatory" in 1685.[44] By the year 1689 Tillotson had confidence with English Monarchs William and Mary, and preached directly to them on two occasions including one at Hampton Court Palace.[45] Tillotson was also appointed Clerk of the closet to the king in this time.[46]

Dean of St. Paul's

Appointed by William and Mary, Tillotson became the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1689.[47] It is important to know however that St. Paul's Cathedral had been destroyed in the "Great Fire of 1666" and the new St. Paul's would not be completed until 1697 three years after Tillotson's death. William Sancroft, Tillotson's predecessor, as Dean of St. Paul's was mainly responsible for beginning the process of the new cathedral's construction as he was Dean during the "Great Fire". However it is unclear as to what extent John Tillotson played a role in the rebuilding process in his two year stint as Dean.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Tillotson became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1691 appointed by William and Mary after the suspension and deprivation of his predecessor William Sancroft.[48] The reason Sandcroft was deprived as his role was that he refused to acknowledge William and Mary as Monarchs after the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688. Jonh Tillotson would serve in this position leading the Church of England until his death.

Death and Legacy

John Tillotson died on November 22nd, 1694 when he suddenly became ill and was aware but having trouble speaking.[49] His funeral was held at St. Lawrence Jewry is now buried in the Church in London. At his funeral it was remarked by English monarch William III that Tillotson "had the brightest thoughts and the most correct style of all our divines, and was esteemed the best preacher of his age."[50] After his death Tillotson's work, mostly sermons, were compiled into three volumes by Ralph Baker.[51] Tillotson's wife sold the sermons for enough wealth to live out her life no longer having John to provide for her.

John TIllotson's memorial in St. Lawrence Jewry reads "To the Memory of the most reverend and holy priest John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury, the most celebrated of the group rousing speakers who were in the church for 30 years, who died on 22nd November 1694 at the age of 63. This [monument] was placed [here] by Elizabeth his most sorrowful wife." Below is a picture I took in St. Lawrence Jewry of the memorial.

Section 2: Deliverable


Video: John Tillotson a Post English Reformation Preacher

Introduction

The following video begins with a brief summery of the English Reformation to provide historical context to Tillotson's life. The video then continues with a summery of Tillotson's historic life. Lastly the video concludes with an analysis of one of Tillotson's published works "A Discourse Against Transubstantiation".

I chose video as the medium for my milestone deliverable for a few different reasons. The first reason is that I think history is almost always a story that can be explained, and video is a way that I can engage my audience in the story of Tillotson's life. Secondly I uncovered a vast amount of pictures in my research that serve as a visual aid in the following video. I also chose video because of my past production/editing experience in working at my town's local public access television studio.

Video

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Note: If the media player is slow a YouTube link to this video can be found here https://youtu.be/jnrn5bdV75I

Video Transcript

"More than one hundred years before the Great Fire of London destroyed the Original Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and the Black Death revenged the city a man known as Henry VIII sits on the throne in England. The year is 1534 and Henry has just convinced parliament to make him the Head of the Church of England, and severs ties with the Catholic Church in Rome. Henry’s motivations for breaking from the Catholic Church were political, but his son Edward VI who would inherit the throne after his death in 1547 would transition the Church of England towards Protestant beliefs.

Edward would die young and with no direct heir Mary I, a devout Catholic would gain the throne. Mary did everything she could to overturn the change that had occurred under Henry and Edward. She is often referred to as Bloody Mary in reference to the protestants she put to death.

The saga continues on when Mary would die and Elizabeth I would take the throne. Elizabeth would revert England back once again to a Protestant Church under the Elizabethan Settlement. 30 Years later John Tillotson would be born in the era immediately following this period of religious turmoil.

John Tillotson was born in a small English village called Sowerby, in Yorkshire during the year 1630. His father was a Puritan clothier but this impact on Tillotson is not historically documented. The next commonly acknowledged event in Tillotson's life is his studies at Clare Hall, Cambridge where he would become a fellow and graduate in 1651. Tillotson was ordained into the Church of England in 1661. He began preaching at both Lincoln’s Inn and St. Lawrence Jewry in London during 1664. That same year he would marry Elizabeth France the niece of Oliver Cromwell in St. Lawrence Jewry.

It was at this time that Tillotson attended the Savory Conference, a conference that aimed to promote unity and discussion about the Church of England. In 1662 the Act of Uniformity was passed by parliament requiring the Church of England to become unified under common religious beliefs. Tillotson would adhere to this act although he had previously been considered a non-conformist.

Tillotson, known for his zealous attitude against Catholic doctrine, began publishing writings against the Catholic works of Rome. This matched with his notable preaching and connections within the Church of England allowed him to advance to the position of the Dean of Canterbury in 1672 by the order of king Charles II. During his time as Dean John Tillotson would continue to publish works refuting Catholic doctrine including “A Discourse Against Transubstantiation” which will be later analyzed in this video. Tillotson would also gain the favor of the new English monarchs William III and Mary II.

This newfound favor would allow Tillotson to advance his religious career even further. In 1689 John Tillotson would become the dean of St. Paul’s in London. The original St. Paul’s had been destroyed in the Great fire of 1666 and the new cathedral would not be finished until after Tillotson’s death. Two years later in 1691 Tillotson would continue his rise to the highest position in the clergy of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury. He would remain in this position for just three years until he died unexpectedly in 1694. His funeral was held in London at St. Lawrence Jewry where it was remarked by William III that Tillotson "had the brightest thoughts and the most correct style of all our divines, and was esteemed the best preacher of his age." He is now buried in St. Lawrence Jewry.

In order to understand John Tillotson’s “A Discourse Against Transubstantiation” it is important to define what transubstantiation is and why it was hotly debated topic during the Reformation. In the Catholic Sacrament of Communion transubstantiation is the belief that when a priest blesses bread and wine that it becomes the body and blood of Jesus with only the physical appearance of wine and bread left. Protestants rejected this idea of transubstantiation during the Reformation as a creation of the Catholic Church and not from God. On the first page Tillotson states his thesis writing “Of the first of these I shall now treat, and endeavor to shew against the Church of Rome, that in this sacrament there is no substantial change made of Elements of Bread and Wine into the natural Body and Bloud of Christ; That body that was born of the Virgin Mary, and suffered upon the Cross for so they explain the hard word Transubstantiation.” This work is also littered with Tillotson’s remarks about the Catholic Church that shows that an intellectual tension still exists between the Churches years after the English Reformation.

Tillotson goes on to explain in his work that no one should have to write about why a commonly accepted thing is not something else saying "It might seem strange if any man should write a book, to prove that an Egg is not an Elephant, and that a Musket-Ball is not a pike…", but this claims Tillotson is exactly what he needs to do to refute his wrong Catholic adversaries. Tillotson also says that sacraments with no backing in scripture weaken Christian arguments and promote atheism. Tillotson’s work relies heavily on logic which fits the early-enlightenment era Tillotson lived in.

On the last pages of his 43-page work Tillotson turns his attention from transubstantiation to other topics that were debated during the Reformation including idolatry and papal authority. This once again shows that the Reformation tension still continued well into Tillotson’s life in the 17th century and was a topic Tillotson dealt with often in his role as a clergyman of the Church of England. Although it had been over a hundred years since Henry the VIII had begun the Reformation the same disputes raged on in Tillotson’s life."

Conclusion

When I began this milestone I expected to find that John Tillotson wasn't as big of a deal as I would have liked. After studying Him in depth I came to realize that Tillotson was an important figure in historical context with famous connections. This milestone tells the muddled story of how the Tudors transformed England from a predominantly Catholic nation to a Protestant nation through the creation of "The Church of England". It also tells the story of the life of John Tillotson and how his life as a preacher was influenced by the Reformation, and how he continued to evolve history with his works and sermons. Tillotson's works show that he strongly believes in the Church of England and that he believes the Catholic Church to be fundamentally wrong. If I had more time I would love to explore the impact this time period has on current Catholic-Protestant churches, and if the tension continues today in any capacity. In addition to my historical findings about Tillotson I have also come to a greater sense of appreciation for my family history through this project.

References

  1. Servini, P. (2002). The English reformation. London: Hodder & Stoughton. P.P. 1
  2. Hillerbrand, H. J. (2017, January 24). Martin Luther. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther
  3. Wilson, D. (2012). A Brief History of The English Reformation (1st ed.). Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers. P.P. 92
  4. Wilson, D. (2012). A Brief History of The English Reformation (1st ed.). Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers. P.P. 93
  5. Wilson, D. (2012). A Brief History of The English Reformation (1st ed.). Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers. P.P. 93
  6. Wilson, D. (2012). A Brief History of The English Reformation (1st ed.). Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers. P.P. 93
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  33. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson.
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  35. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 127
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  37. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. v
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  40. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbisops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 125
  41. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. x
  42. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbisops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 127
  43. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. xv
  44. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. xxxv
  45. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. xlii
  46. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. xlii
  47. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 127
  48. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 127
  49. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson. P.P. xcv
  50. Bellenger, D. A., & Fletcher, S. (2013). The Mitre and the Crown A History of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Stroud: The History Press. P.P. 127
  51. Tillotson, J., Birch, T., & Barker, R. (1752). The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.. (Vol. 1). Printed for J. and R. Tonson.