A Sermon by Robert Barnes, c. 1535 1
Robert Barnes is a name well known to historians of the English Reformation. He receives brief mention in most historical surveys, being variously discussed as Coverdale's prior, Luther's friend, Cromwell's protégé, or Henry VIII's martyr. Among scholars whose interests lie primarily with the theology of the Reformation, Barnes has at times received further, more focused attention, his written works being examined in some detail and he himself being painted as a rare English Lutheran. Those interested in the politics of the Henrician Reformation have also found reason to assign Barnes a place of some importance, giving particular attention to his later role as royal ambassador to the princes and theologians of the German Protestant League of Schmalkalden. In contrast to these portraits of Barnes as a theologian and diplomat, and in spite of the fact that Barnes regularly mounted the pulpit while in England, there has been no comparable emphasis on Robert Barnes the preacher. The reason for this lacuna is quite simply that, despite the amount of contemporary commentary on his preaching, none of Barnes's actual sermons has been preserved. This is a fact all the more lamentable since, as those friends and foes who did comment upon his preaching make clear, he was known by contemporaries to be an extraordinarily zealous and effective preacher.
1 We wish to thank Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch and Dr Elisabeth Leedham-Green for their helpful comments on a draft of this note. We are also grateful to Mr Richard Chamberlaine-Brothers, archivist of the Warwickshire Record Office, for permission to publish the material. All biblical quotations appearing in footnotes are taken from the 1535 translation of Miles Coverdale (RSTC 2063).