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Tenison preached that English-speakers had no need for a pope or a "Catholic Church" because they already had the perfect word of God in their own language: the AV 1611.
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Thomas Tenison ... an early defender of the King James Bible
Daryl R. Coats
"Looking for that blessed hope," (Titus 2:11-14)
Thomas Tenison ... an early defender of the King James Bible
In his preface to the first volume of Oxford University Press’s 1955 issuing of The Diary of John Evelyn, E.S. de Beer notes that "Evelyn’s Diary has enjoyed high rank among historical scholars and general readers ever since its first publication" in 1818. Evelyn was born in 1620 and died in 1706, and as a man who loved to write, he kept a diary that is immensely important to historians studying England’s history in the century following the first appearance of the King James Bible (AV 1611).
Evelyn knew and visited numerous dignitaries and figures such as Bishop James Ussher, chronicling those visits in his diary; likewise, he describes most of the sermons he heard in his adult life, listing the preachers as well as the texts of those messages. A die-hard Anglican, he noted that the first "phanatical" (sic) preacher he ever heard was a street-preaching Baptist who was railing against the state—and the many references he makes to Anglican sermons against "anabaptism" bear testimony that Baptists were regarded as major threat in 17th-century England.
Evelyn eventually became good friends with the English preacher Thomas Tenison (1636-1715), the Vicar of St. Martin’s in the field and later (beginning in 1694) the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tenison’s defense of the Bible and his attacks on Catholicism were so powerful and effective that by 1688 Catholic apologists were attacking him in print and writing books against him and "his" doctrines—and others were writing works exposing the lies of the Catholic apologists. Two of John Evelyn’s journal entries concerning Tenison are especially interesting to those who believe that the AV 1611 is indeed God’s word for the world’s English-speaking peoples.
Evelyn’s entry for 7 October 1688 begins, "The next day being Sonday [sic] Dr. Tenison viccar [sic] of St. Martins, preached on 2: Tim: 3.16. shewing the Scripture to be our undoubted & onely [sic] Rule of Faith, & its perfection above all other Traditions & Writings, most excellently proved." As Evelyn clarifies later in the entry, the "Scripture" on whose "perfection" Dr. Tenison expounded was none other than the AV 1611. Notice that more than 300 years ago, an English minister preached an entire sermon about the King James Bible—and that his proof-text was 2 Timothy 3:16!
Nor was this the only time Tenison defended the AV 1611 in a sermon. In his diary entry for 30 January 1687, Evelyn recorded the following about the second sermon he heard that day: "At St. Martins, Dr. Tenison: on 2. Cor: 2: ult, shewing the Truth of the Scriptures, & most learnedly defending our Translation, clearing divers Controversies about it, and proving that there is no neede [sic] of an Infallible Interpreter [that is, a pope or a ‘Catholic Church’]" (emphasis added). In an explanatory footnote to this passage, E.S. de Beer explains, "Tenison had already discussed this topic briefly in A Discourse concerning a Guide in Matters of Faith, 1683; and returned to it in his introduction to Popery Not Founded on Scripture, 1688." In other words, Tenison preached that English-speakers had no need for a pope or a "Catholic Church" because they already had the perfect word of God in their own language: the AV 1611. When men stick to the true word of God, ecumenical compromise with Rome is impossible—as is obvious from the remainder of Evelyn’s diary entry for 7 October 1688.
Tenison’s sermon that day was topical, "chiefly occasioned by an impertinent Jesuite [sic] who in their Masse-house [sic] the Sunday before had disparaged the Scripture & railed at our Translation with extraordinary ignorance and impudence" (emphasis added). Did you catch that? Tenison’s sermon was in response to that of a Jesuit (Charles Petre, who, according to E.S. de Beer, had been "preaching at the Elector Palatine’s chapel in Lime Street") who had attacked the King James Bible. In the late 17th century, Romanism was distinguished from Protestantism by its rejection of the AV 1611—and that rejection was attributed to "extraordinary ignorance"!
But Evelyn’s diary entry isn’t finished yet. It turns out that the Jesuit Petre had not even been able to finish his own sermon: "an impertinent Jesuite ... railed at our Translation with extraordinary ignorance and impudence; which some present contradicting, they pulled him out of the Pulpit, & treated him very coursely [sic], insomuch as it was like to create a very greate [sic] disturbance in the City" (emphasis added)! Three hundred years ago, when a Roman Catholic priest attacked the King James Bible from the pulpit of a "mass-house," some of the people who heard him refuted him and forcibly removed him from the pulpit; yet in our time, such a man would be lauded and extolled. "How are the mighty fallen!" (2 Samuel 1:19).
Of course, one thing hasn’t changed since Evelyn’s time—or from Paul’s (for example., Acts 19 and 22): publicly siding with God’s word or refuting the false claims of religious apostates is still likely to create a public uproar or stir up a riot. But such a probability didn’t deter Thomas Tenison, who, like the Apostle Paul, was "set for the defense of the gospel" (Philippians 1:17). Are you? As Jude commanded, he "earnestly contend[ed] for the faith once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Do you? Like David, he discovered that whether they’re in prison or in the archbishop’s chair, God Himself defends "all those that put their trust" in Him (Psalm 5:11). Have you?
Note: John Evelyn’s diary entries for 30 January 1687 and 7 October 1688 can be found in Volume 4 (Kalendarium 1673-1689) of The Diary of John Evelyn, edited by E.S. de Beer (Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 537 and 599.
The LORD'S Messenger
A Message To The People
“Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.” Haggai 1:13