Edmund Grindal’s love for books saved his life. One day while romping through the fields with a book stuffed into his coat, a hunter’s stray arrow flew into him, lodging in the book. Later another book saved him: The Bible brought him to Christ. Grindal grew in faith and entered the ministry; but when “Bloody” Mary rose to the throne, he fled to Germany until Mary was replaced by Protestant-leaning Elizabeth I. Grindal returned to England and was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1575.

Elizabeth soon complained to the new archbishop that too much preaching was causing seedbeds of sedition. “Three or four sermons a year” are quite enough, the queen said, and she ordered Grindal to curtail preaching throughout the kingdom.

On December 20, 1576 Grindal responded in a long letter, saying in part: The speeches it hath pleased you to deliver me concerning abridging the number of preachers and the utter suppression of conferences among ministers have exceedingly dismayed and discomforted me. Alas, Madam, is the Scripture more plain in any one thing than that the Gospel of Christ should be plentifully preached? To the building of Solomon’s material temple there were appointed 150,000 labourers and 300 overseers, and shall we think a few preachers may suffice to edify the spiritual temple of Christ. St. Paul said, “Preach the Word.” Public and continual preaching of God’s word is the ordinary instrument of salvation. I cannot with safe conscience and without the offense of the Majesty of God consent to their suppressing. Bear with me, I beseech you, Madam, if I choose rather to offend your earthly Majesty than to offend the heavenly Majesty of God. I beseech you, Madam, let the Majesty of God be before your eyes and say, “Not mine but Thy will be done.”

Elizabeth, furious, placed Grindal under house arrest. But the gospel was not shut up, and despite the queen’s misgivings gospel preaching spread to every corner of the British Isles.

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 20.

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