Thursday, April 10, 2014

John Skip's Passion Sunday Sermon

Happy (very belated, as I forgot to post this) Passion Sunday to all of my fellow Christians! Today marks a very important day in the fall of Anne Boleyn. On Passion Sunday 1536 Anne's personal almoner, John Skip, preached a controversial sermon on the stories of the Old Testament of Esther, Nebuchadnezzar and Solomon. Skip's sermon portrayed Henry VIII as both Ahasuerus who was being led astray by his wicked and scheming advisor Haman, and as Solomon who lost his righteousness by choosing whores over his legitimate wife Naamah.
The Letters and Papers contain a primary source account of the sermon, one that shocked all of those listening:


"A sermon preached by My. Skyppe<sic>, in the King's chapel, upon Passion Sunday, in the year of Our Lord 1536, on the text Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato [which of you convinceth me of sin?] defending the clergy from the defamers and from the immoderate zeal of men in holding up to public reprobation the faults of any single clergyman as if it were the fault of all. He insisted upon the example of Ahasuerus, who was moved by a wicked minister to destroy the Jews. He urged that a King's councillor ought to take good heed what advice he gave in altering ancient things, and that no people wished to take away the ceremonies of the Church, such as holy water, holy bread etc. That alternations ought not to be made except in cases of necessity....


The preacher insisted on the strict following of God's Word: That Christ chose ignorant followers, to teach men that nobility standeth not in worth but grace; and he cited the example of Solomon to show that he lost his true nobility towards the end of his life by taking new wives and concubines. He insisted on the need of a King being wise in himself, and resisting evil councillors who tempted him to ignoble actions, by the history of Rehoboam; observing that if a stranger visited this realm, and saw those who were called noble, he would conceive that all true nobility was banished from England. He warned them against rebuking the clergy, even if they were sinful, as rebukers were often rebuked, like Nebuchadnezzar, who was God's instrument to punish the Jews, but was damned for his labour. Against evil councilors who suggested alternation in established customer, he instanced the history of Haman and Ahasuerus. He then explained and defended the ancient ceremonies of the Church...."


The sermon, obviously approved by Anne, served to solidify her reformist views and to further break down her tenuous relationship with Thomas Cromwell. It was a thinly veiled threat, that assured all listening that she would prevail and condemned Jane Seymour, whom the King was known to be courting, as a whore. Skip was fined for his actions and was accused of "...preaching seditious doctrines on these words, and slandering the King's highness, his counselors, his lords and nobles, and his whole parliament."


**Excerpts taken from the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII and The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives.

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