A Brief Explanation Of The Thirty-Nine Articles
By F. E. Middleton
Chas. J. Thynne, 1900
Lambeth And Trent (Series)
[Footnotes moved into place of citation in square brackets. Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals. Spelling selectively modernized.]
The Readings on the Articles contained in this little book were undertaken at the suggestion of a layman in the congregation of which the writer is a member, for insertion month by month in the parish magazine.
The endeavour has been, as briefly as is consistent with clearness, to bring out the meaning and object of these thirty-nine mainstays of the Church of England, in such a way that all who read may understand what the doctrines of the Established Church really are.
In the hope of reaching a wider circle of readers, more especially among the young, and those qualifying themselves to be teachers, and ministers, they have now been published in book form and are sent out in the hope that all who read them may be instructed, profited, and established in the faith once delivered to the saints, which is nowhere more clearly and fearlessly set forth – the writer firmly believes – than in the Confession of Faith with which the Church of England has been so richly endowed.
The division into short Readings has been retained, as most convenient for those who may wish for the purposes of study, to make this explanation of the Articles a textbook; and for the same reason questions are appended to each reading, for the perfecting of their knowledge by students.
In these perilous times, when we are being told on every hand that there is no real difference between the Church of England, and that of Rome, and when this lie is receiving corroboration everywhere in the ever increasing assimilation of the services of so many of our Churches to those in vogue in the Church of Rome, and the subtle device adopted by the early Tractarians of leavening the whole Church with ritualism preparatory to reunion with Rome seems taking effect on all sides, it behoves us to be acquainted with the real differences between ourselves and Rome, that we may be on our guard lest we be carried away in the flood of Apostasy that is gathering force every day, and threatening to engulf us once more in the terrible vortex of the Papacy. To this end there is nothing to be compared with a thorough knowledge of the Articles; and to the acquisition of such a knowledge on the part of many, it is the earnest desire and prayer of the writer that this brief explanation of them may not a little contribute.
In conclusion, the writer would gratefully acknowledge that he owes a deep debt of gratitude to Boultbee’s “Book on the Articles”. It is to the perusal of this treatise that he traces his deep interest in the subject treated in the following pages, and he would cordially recommend the study of that book to all who feel they would like to increase their knowledge of the doctrines of the Church of England.
He also owes much to a little book, now unhappily out of print, known by the name of a “Catechism on the Thirty-nine Articles” by J. W., published by Warren, Winchester.
It well deserves to be reissued, as it is calculated to be most useful in imparting an immense amount of knowledge on the subject in a clear and interesting manner.
Clapham, October, 1899.
Readings on the Articles of Religion
I – Their History
“The Articles of Religion” – to be found at the end of every properly printed Prayer Book – “do contain” – as His Majesty’s Declaration, which precedes them, expressly tells us – “the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God’s Word.” Hence, we must judge of ourselves and others as to whether we are true members of the Church of England or not, by bringing the doctrines that we and others hold to the test of this standard. If our doctrines will not stand this test, they are doctrines which show that our place as Christians is not in the ranks of the establishment, but in those of some other denomination.
The Articles were first published, forty-two in numbs under the authority of a royal mandate in 1553, the last year of the reign of Edward VI, and may be regarded as a reply on the part of the Church of England to the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent, which, it is acknowledged on all hands, are to be taken as representing the doctrines and discipline of the modern Church of Rome.
As this Council was a most important one in connection with the controversy between the Church of England and that of Rome, it may be well to state a few facts concerning it.
It was held at a place called Trent, situated in the Austrian Tyrol, on neutral ground, but on the borders of the Papal territories.
It was necessitated – “even our enemies themselves being judges” – by the fearful state of moral corruption in which the Church of Rome was sunk. A fierce flame of searching light had been thrown upon her by the Reformation movement in England, Bohemia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, France, Switzerland, Spain, and even Italy, and her blackness and filthiness were discovered even to herself.
And so – greatly against the wish of the Pontiff, who dreaded that his supremacy and power of oppression would be taken from him – the Council was summoned, after many attempts to avoid so unpleasant a duty, by the Pope himself, with the ostensible object of reforming the abuses of Christendom. [Those who seek further information on the subject will find it admirably summarized in a little book of an inexpensive nature called “The Council of Trent,” published by the Religious Tract Society.]
The Council met in 1545. The Protestant States of Europe were invited to send representatives, but they all refused, as it soon became known that freedom of debate would not be allowed, but that everything would be managed from Rome. As a proof that the Council was not free, we have only to refer to the accounts Rome’s own historians give of it; from which we learn that the closure was immediately applied to everything to which the Pope objected.
Furthermore, one of the French ambassadors, a Romanist, who attended the Council, says in a letter written the day after his arrival to De Lisle, the French ambassador at Rome, that he feared that little advantage would be derived from the assembly, unless the Pope would suffer the deliberations and votes of the fathers to be free, and no more send the Holy Spirit in a travelling bag from Rome to Trent!
The Council met then in 1545 and continued to hold sessions until 1552. Owing to wars and commotions in the neighbourhood, it was suspended until the year 1562. The sessions were then resumed, and it came finally to an end in 1563.
It is universally agreed that the Decrees and Canons of this Council – every one of which is enforced by anathemas or curses on him who dares to hold a different opinion! – have crystallized and made obligatory on all who profess the Romanist religion, all the errors of doctrine, many of which existed only in solution up to that time, which were being inveighed against as unscriptural by all classes of reformers.
Let it be remembered, and remembered well, that every Romanist is bound by the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent, and just as the true doctrine of the Church of England must he based on and taken from the Articles, so the true doctrine of the Church of Rome must be based on and taken from the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent.
This is very important, as Romanists in England nowadays, for the purpose of proselytizing, are in the habit of ignoring somewhat these decrees, and the unhappy victim only finds out the tyranny of the Church to which he has thoughtlessly and ignorantly – in many cases – submitted his conscience, after the fatal step of admission into the Church has been taken.
Let it be remembered too, and remembered well, that that Council bases its Decrees and Canons on Scripture (which, according to Roman theologians, includes the Apocrypha) – and Tradition.
Hence the constant reference to Scripture and Scripture alone as the final appeal, which we find everywhere in the Articles.
It cannot be reiterated too plainly or too often that the Protestant position, so nobly taken up by our Articles, is that the human conscience dares not recognize any other keeper or lord, save the Word of God, revealed to us in those Canonical Scriptures of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church, and that every individual has a right to examine – nay, woe be to him if he refuses to examine – those Scriptures for himself in accordance with the commands of Christ and His Apostles, which tell us to search the Scriptures, prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.
The Articles of Religion remained in abeyance during the reign of Mary, and until the fifth year of Elizabeth. In 1563 Convocation took action upon them, and ultimately sanctioned a revised copy, containing thirty-eight Articles.
In 1571, Elizabeth finally sanctioned another revision, which was subscribed by Convocation in that year. The Articles so ratified and sanctioned, thirty-nine in number, have remained to our time, without any alteration.
The Latin and English versions of the Articles have equal authority. We have therefore the advantage of a reference from one version to the other in the case of any ambiguity occurring.
Having given a brief historical sketch of the Articles, we now proceed to deal with their arrangement. It may be seen, on a careful glance, that they may be divided into six parts, corresponding to the principal divisions of their subjects.
Part I (Articles i–v) treats of the Nature of the Deity, or the Object of our worship.
Part II (Articles vi–viii) treats of the Rule of Faith, or the Holy Scriptures.
Part III (Articles ix–xviii) treats of the main doctrines of Man’s Salvation, or Redemption through Christ.
Part IV (Articles xix–xxxiv) treats of the Church which holds these doctrines, or the Assembly of faithful men.
Part V (Articles xxxv–xxxvi) treats of the Church of England in particular, or the Establishment.
Part VI (Articles xxxvii–xxxix) treats of Civil Rights and Duties, or the position of the members of the Church of England, as subjects of the Civil Government.
In this paper it is proposed to elucidate as briefly as possible the First Article, comprised under Part I.
First, let us see how it runs.
Article I – Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST.”
Remarks on the Article.
The object of our worship, as members of the Church of England, is here defined in clear and concise language, gathered, of course, from the Scriptures, to be but one God, as opposed to the “gods many and lords many,” of Paganism, and the innumerable demigods, or saints of paganized Christianity.
He is described as the genuine and eternal Fount of Life, a Spiritual Being unsubjected to the limitations of space or a body, and therefore capable of being present everywhere and at all times. We are also told that He is “without parts” (impartibilis) i.e., One Who is insusceptible of being divided into parts, and so incapable of sharing His authority with another. He is also “without passions,” i.e., One Who is not subject to the sway of caprice or emotion, and is therefore incapable of a warped judgment in any matter. We also learn – as we are already prepared by reason to believe – that this One being Whom we call God has unlimited power at His disposal, is boundlessly resourceful, and always actuated by unending goodness. He it was Who created all things we see and do not see, and Who keeps everything in proper order.
We also learn that without any division of this Godhead, but in the Oneness of it, there are Three Persons, or Existences, all possessing in perfection the one Essence, or Being (this is the meaning of the word “substance” here), might, and everlastingness of the Godhead, who are respectively called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
It will be seen from a careful study of this article, that our Church guards herself against (i) Polytheism, or the belief that there are more gods than one; (ii) Pantheism, or the belief that there is something of God in everyone and everything; (iii) Deism, or the belief based on facts and reason, that there is one God, but which, as it ignores Revelation, altogether ignores the doctrine of the Trinity; (iv) Arianism (including its descendants, Socinianism and Unitarianism), or the belief in one God as a Father, and the Scriptures as a Revelation from God, but which refuses to accept the Deity of the Son and the Holy Ghost, regarding the former as the best of created beings, and the latter as merely a divine influence.
From the whole article we gather, just as we gather from a careful perusal of Scripture, the most comfortable assurance of the unbounded trustworthiness of the Object of our praise, trust, love and obedience. Our God is perfection. He is an immovable Rock. And, as we go to the Father through the Son, by the Holy Ghost, we may enjoy the most unlimited confidence that our faith and hope – to whichever Person of the Blessed Trinity we have regard – are in God.
It may be well to append, to what has been said, some arguments for the existence of God, independently of Holy Scripture.
1. From the visible effect, the mind naturally goes back to some original cause or first source. Anything made, at once suggests the thought that there must have been a Maker.
2. The consent of all nations implies a knowledge derived from the common source of revelation, or from the natural constitution of the human mind.
There is not a nation under heaven, amongst whom there is no belief in God. This fact shows either that all nations have preserved the original revelation made to them by God Himself, before they were scattered from the cradle of the human race, or that God Himself has put this conviction into us as part of our nature.
3. The order and usefulness of all things, in creation; which order and adaptation show an artificer of supreme intelligence and skill. The webbed foot of a waterfowl is a suitable illustration of this argument to which thousands might be added.
4. The force of conscience, which, being a law within us, gives the notion of a law giver, in other words, all human beings naturally feel a moral responsibility to One outside and above them, to Whom they know they are accountable.
Scripture Proofs on Article I.
1. There is but one God.
“Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no God, I know not any.” Is. 44:8.
“And the scribe said unto Him, Well Master, Thou hast said the truth; for there is one God, and there is none other but He.” Mark 12:32.
2. Living and True.
“But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and an everlasting King.” Jer. 10:10.
“Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thess. 1:9.
“And Abraham ... called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.” Gen. 21:33.
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8.
4. Without body or parts.
“Ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure.” Deut. 4:15 and 16.
“God is a Spirit.” John 4:24.
“It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” Col. 1:19.
“In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Col, 2:9.
5. Without passions.
“I am the Lord, I change not.” Mal. 3:6.
“The Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Jas. 1:17.
6. Of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Gen. 18:14.
“The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not neither is weary; there is no searching of His understanding.” Is. 40:28.
“The goodness of God endureth continually.” Ps. 52:1.
7. The Maker and Preserver of all things.
“Thou hast made Heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.” Neh. 9:6.
“His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world: who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power.” Heb. 1:2, 3.
8. Three Persons in this Godhead.
“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” 2 Cor. 13:14.
Questions on Article I.
1. Into what “parts” may the thirty-nine Articles be divided?
2. Explain “without parts,” “without passions”.
3. What is the meaning of “substance”?
4. Against what errors is this Article directed?
5. What truths does this Article assure us of?
6. Give some arguments for the existence of God, independently of Holy Scripture.
Article II – Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
“The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.”
Remarks on the Article.
We learn that the Second Person in the Trinity, called here “the Son,” a name applied frequently to Himself by our Lord in the Gospels, more especially in that of St. John, is “the Word of the Father”.
This title of the Saviour is only found in the writings of St. John, and seems to imply that He is the One who, as God’s mouth-piece, so to speak, reveals to us in human language the very thoughts of God Himself.
It was a title applied to the Messiah by the Jews, and seems to have been based on the expression we find constantly occurring in the writings of Ezekiel, in the oft-repeated expression, “The Word of the Lord came unto me saying,” and is used of our Lord by the Evangelist, to identify Jesus the Messiah, with Him who came and spoke to the prophets in old time.
We are also told in this Article, in language which, from the inadequacy of any human speech to express such mysteries, seems at first difficult to understand, that He was begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God. But when we read in some passages of Scripture that He was “the only begotten of the Father,” and in others that “He is God,” and as such therefore without beginning, we come to the conclusion that it would be difficult to state these truths about Him accurately, in any other way than they are here stated.
The expression “of one substance with the Father,” with which the description of His Godhead closes, is highly controversial, and is imported into the Article from the Nicene Creed, in which it found a place mainly through the influence of the Deacon Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea, to express, in opposition to Arians and semi-Arians (the Unitarians of the present day), the belief of the Church that the Son was of one essence or being with the Father (homoousios), and not merely of like nature with God (homoiousios) as the Arians were “willing to admit, and so, of course, to be regarded as God just in the same way as the Father.
Having set forth in words of no uncertain sound the great and important truth that the Son is perfect God – a truth which is the great sheet-anchor of the believer – the Article goes on to tell us that He is perfect Man as well, and so fitted, as uniting God and Man in one person, to he the one bridge by which human beings may cross the otherwise impassable chasm that yawns between God and man; the one Ladder which reaches all the way from earth to Heaven, and up which we may pass into the Presence Chamber of the Most High Himself.
It tells us that this Divine Being was made Man, having taken man’s nature from Mary, the vehicle of His birth as Man; that thus there were, without confusion, two distinct Natures, each of them whole and perfect, joined together in such a way that they can never more be divided, in one Person known as the Messiah; a Person who is in every respect God, as in every respect Man; except, of course, only in the matter of sin, from which He was entirely free, owing to the part taken in the production of His Manhood, from the substance of the Virgin, by God the Holy Ghost.
We learn also that the union of the two Natures in the One Person did not prevent His feeling the woes and ills to which the flesh is heir; that He in His human nature (the Divine Nature being incapable of suffering) felt pain, fatigue, sorrow, care, temptations, and trials of various kinds, just as we do – in fact, that He truly suffered; then that He endured, as being the accursed of God for the sins of mankind, that most shameful of all deaths, the death by crucifixion, which only the worst and most despised of men had been compelled to suffer; that His body was laid in the grave as having really died, to assure us that the penalty of our sins, which is death, was to the uttermost farthing exacted from Him.
Finally, we are told that the object of that death was to reconcile or make an atonement to His Father for us, and that by it He might be a sacrificial victim to appease God’s wrath, not only for our original disobedience, which we incurred in Adam (the effect of which is felt in our natural enmity against God), but also for all the sins mankind has committed, is committing, or ever will commit.
Scripture Proofs On Article II.
1. The Deity and Sonship of the second Person in the Trinity.
“His Name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Isa. 9:6.
“The Kingdom of His dear Son; ... who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature; for by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” Col. 1:13, 15, 16, 17.
2. The Incarnation.
“Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His Name Emmanuel.” Isa. 7:14.
“God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” Gal. 4:4.
3. The Composite Nature of the Person of the Incarnate Son.
“The second Man is the Lord from Heaven.” 1 Cor. 15:47.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Phil. 2:6, 7.
4. The Sufferings of Christ.
“He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. ... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; with His stripes we are healed.” Is. 53:3–5.
“Who, in the days of His flesh when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Heb. 5:7–8.
5. The purpose of those Sufferings.
“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Eph. 2:16.
“And having made peace through the blood of His cross by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him I say, whether they be things in earth or things in Heaven. And you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight.” Col. 1:20, 21, 22.
Questions on Article II.
1. Explain the Title “Word of the Father.”
2. How is this Title used in the Old Testament?
3. What is the meaning “of one substance” and why is it imported into this Article?
4. What is implied in the term “perfect Man”?
5. Explain the words “truly suffered”.
6. What have you to say of the expression “to reconcile His Father to us”?
Article III – Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
“As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed that He went down into Hell.”
Remarks on the Article.
The doctrine laid down by this Article is not expressly asserted by the Evangelists, but it seems to have been introduced into our articles, because it is contained in the Apostles! Creed and that of Athanasius; where it probably found a place to express the Church’s belief in the actual separation of Christ’s soul from His body, against those who, in early times, not being able to believe that Messiah was capable of dying, contended that He fell into a trance or syncope, and did not really suffer death.
This is all the teaching probably that our Church intends to convey by the introduction of this doctrine into her Articles.
It is to be remembered that the word here written, “Hell,” is not necessarily “Gehenna,” or the “place of torment”. It is represented in the Latin edition of the Articles by the word “Inferos,” i.e., “the lower ones”; and is equivalent to the Greek word “Hades,” which means “the unseen world”. And the word simply teaches that Christ went down into the unseen world, or to the people in the lower regions, alluding to the old idea that the abode of departed spirits was some unseen place under the earth.
It may, however, be interesting and useful that we should be acquainted with the various views that have been and are held on the subject of the “Descent into Hell.”
Some have maintained – notably, Calvin and Beza, the Reformers – that it intimates that Christ actually suffered the torments of the damned to save men from them.
But this view seems sufficiently refuted by a careful consideration of the meaning of the words “It is finished,” uttered by our Lord on the Cross just before His death. Surely, they must intimate, among other things that the cup of suffering sufficient to secure our salvation had at that time been drained by Him to the dregs.
Some, with an allusion to the words found in 1 Peter 4:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which also He went and preached into the Spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah,” have held that Christ went down into that part of the unseen world where these antediluvian wicked spirits were imprisoned, and made a proclamation to them of His recently accomplished work. But what the result of this proclamation was, some, with Scripture, are content not to say; while others are bold enough to say that that preaching was followed by the salvation of some or even all who heard it.
But it must be remembered that the passage in question simply asserts that a proclamation was made by the disembodied soul of the Redeemer to the spirits in prison, disobedient in the time of Noah, but that of the nature of that proclamation we cannot form any certain opinion, as the word used for “preached” in the original is one that would he used of a herald, not necessarily of an evangelist or preacher of good tidings.
Some have held that the “Descent into Hell,” intimates that Christ went down into that part of the unseen world, where the spirits of the righteous were, for the purpose of removing them into a better place. This, however, is mere speculation.
The Roman doctrine on the “Descent into Hell,” taken from the Catechism of the Council of Trent (see Reading No. 1), an authoritative exposition of the doctrines formulated at that Council, and so of the whole Romish Church, teaches us, with an audacity of assertion to which that Church owes so much of her extraordinary power over the minds and consciences of men, in question 2, that “Hell” in the Creed, means “those hidden abodes in which are detained the souls that have not obtained heavenly bliss.” Question 3 goes on to state this region contains three different receptacles: first, “The most loathsome and dark prison, in which the souls of the damned, together with the unclean spirits, are tortured in eternal and inextinguishable fire;” second, “The fire of Purgatory, in which the souls of the just are purified by punishment for a stated time;” third, “The receptacle commonly called ‘Limbus patrum’ (Limbo) in which wore received the souls of the saints who died before the coming of Christ our Lord, and there, without any sense of pain, sustained by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed a tranquil abode. The souls then of those pious men who, in the bosom of Abraham, were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord liberated, descending into Hell;” and then, Question 5, scarcely in consistency with the preceding, asserts that Christ, “liberated from the miserable wearisomeness of that captivity the holy and the just.”
We, who believe the Word of God, which says according to Is. 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them,” shall have no difficulty in dismissing these notions like so many other doctrines of the Church of Rome, when brought to the infallible touchstone of the Word of God, as “old wives’ fables.” 1 Tim. 4:7.
Scripture Proofs Of Article III.
The two best proofs of the doctrine contained in this article are perhaps the following:–
1. “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell, neither wilt thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” Ps. 16:10, Acts 2:27.
2. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,” i.e., the park or garden in the unseen world, where dwell the spirits of the just. Luke 23:43.
Let us then be content to believe as the Article assures us, as Scripture itself teaches, that the soul of Christ was really separated from His body, and passed into the place of disembodied spirits, and that, therefore, His atoning death was a grand reality.
Then follows the glorious and comforting truth, that the death of Him, Who represented all mankind, is an accomplished and everlasting fact, and that we who believe in Him, and have been baptized into Him, as a pledge of our death with Him, have already spiritually passed through the grave – the gate of death – into the very Palace of Immortality itself. Heb. 2:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:55.
Questions on Article
1. Why was this doctrine introduced into the Articles?
2. What is the meaning here of “Hell”?
3. What was the teaching of Calvin on the subject?
4. How is 1 Peter 4:8, commonly explained?
5. How may we refute that explanation?
6. What is the Roman doctrine respecting “Hell”?
7. What consolations are brought to us through this Article?
Article IV – Of the Resurrection of Christ.
“Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature; wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all men at the last day.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have brought before us in this Article four important points of doctrine:–
(1) The Resurrection of Christ.
(2) The Ascension of Christ into Heaven.
(3) His present Session there.
(4) His return to Judgment.
The fact of our Lord’s Resurrection in the body which was nailed to the Cross and laid in the tomb, although from the earliest times, it has been impugned as incredible, or denied for various other reasons, is established by evidence as incontestable as, or perhaps more so than has ever been brought to bear on any historical occurrence whatsoever.
In fact, considering the convincing evidence at our disposal, it is much more difficult to believe that the Resurrection did not occur than that it did.
This fact being proved, what is the result for those that have ears to hear? By rising again the third day from the dead, He is proved to be, as He ever claimed to be, the Son of God with power. What creature could ever dare to say that after a certain time in the grave He would rise again, or even if he said it, could have accomplished it?
The Resurrection, then, is a proof to us that He Who so rose is the true God, and that His omniscience and omnipotence are alike to be depended upon.
It tells us, moreover, that death which had been denounced against man for sin is abolished, and that man, if he wills so to believe it, may reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Head, Representative, Surety, and Substitute of the whole human race.
It tells us, in fact, of Death and Hell behind us; of union with Christ’s Resurrection life as our present portion; of a reign in glory with Christ our life, to be continued throughout eternity before us.
The Ascension of Christ – a fact attested by the evidence of eye-witnesses, and proved by the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, according to promise – speaks to us of a Saviour in Heaven as our Propitiation and High Priestly Advocate with the Father, and is a pledge and assurance of the entrance of redeemed humanity into the same sacred precincts eventually, and a sign to us, that, in union with Him, we are already raised up to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
His session there until His coming again – next mentioned in the Article – speaks to us loudly of the utter unscripturalness of those who, like the Romanists, would have us believe that His Flesh and Blood can be present on thousands of altars at one and the same time; while St. Peter, led of the Spirit, distinctly tells us that the heaven must receive [Him] until the times of restitution of all things (Acts 3:21).
Lastly, his return to judgment – a subject with which the Scriptures teem – is intended to keep us looking for “that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” to reign on the earth.
It tells us – and how welcome is the news as we think of the oppressions that are wrought in the earth! – that all unrighteous rule is at last to be done away, and the perfection of government to be established, when “a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes – the glorified Church! – shall rule in judgment.” It assures us that a time is coming – and everything goes to prove that it may be soon – when He shall put down all rule, and all authority, and power; when the rod out of the stem of Jesse, and the branch out of his roots, with righteousness shall judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth, and shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
In fact, the words intimate that the day of the Lord is at hand, when Messiah the Prince having come again in glory, and rewarded His servants, who are all to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, will fight against all opposers and subdue them, and will then take His great power and reign; “for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth (i.e., to govern it). He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth” 1 Cor. 15). But while the words may mean all this, they also intimate that the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son, and that at the end of that last great day the Son of Man shall take His seat on the great white throne, and assign to all their places for all eternity.
Scripture Proofs of Article IV.
1. The Resurrection of Christ.
“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out her dead.” Is. 26:19.
“Behold My hands and My feet that it is I Myself; handle Me and see; for a Spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” Luke 24:39.
2. The Ascension of Christ.
“Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, Thou hast received gifts for men.” Ps. 68:18.
3. His present Session in Heaven.
“The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Ps. 110:1.
“And He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: whom the Heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things.” Acts 3:20, 21.
4. His return to judgment.
“Because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” Acts 17:31.
“And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and Heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” Rev. 20:11.
Questions on Article IV.
1. What four points of doctrine are brought forward in this Article?
2. Of what truths does the Resurrection assure us?
3. What do we learn from the Ascension of Christ?
4. What Roman doctrine is controverted by the words, “and there sitteth”?
5. What do we learn from the fact that He will come again to judgment?
Article V – Of the Holy Ghost.
“The Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.”
Remarks on the Article.
This Article teaches us three distinct, things about the Holy Ghost.
1. That He is a Person, and not a quality or influence.
2. That He proceeds or comes forth from the Father and the Son.
3. That He is true and ever-existing God.
As to the fact He is a Person and also true God, there have been from early times those who have denied this; just as there have been those who have denied that the Son is a distinct Person, and yet very and eternal God. They spoke of the Holy Ghost as au influence from God, breathed upon man to hold him back from evil, and to dispose and lead him to what is good; but they would not allow that He is a Person in the Godhead.
If; however, we study the Scriptures carefully we shall have no difficulty in proving that His Personality and Deity are implicitly, if not explicitly, taught therein. He can be “grieved”. He “makes intercession,” “searches all things,” “distributes spiritual gifts,” speaks to Peter at Joppa, and to the prophet at Antioch. As the Paraclete, Advocate, or Comforter, He is sent; teaches, testifies, comes, reproves, guides, speaks. All these are personal acts. He is classed with the other Persons in the Trinity in the formula to be used in baptism. He is joined with them again in the familiar form of blessing with which we conclude our prayers. The pronoun “He” in the Greek is expressly used of Him in the text, “When He, the spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13). From all which things we may clearly conclude that the Holy Ghost is a person and not a mere quality or influence.
It is equally clear from the following text – and proofs might be multiplied – that He is very and eternal God. “Know yet not,” says Paul, 1 Cor. 3:16, “that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy.”
The truth thus emphatically stated in the Article is not only very comforting, but very important. It is comforting, because it assures us that if we possess this Holy Spirit, as all do possess Him, who are in Christ by faith, we possess God Himself, and that our humanity, like that of Christ Himself, is one with the Godhead, joined to it by the one Spirit of God and of Christ; and that we have close at hand, even within our hearts, an Almighty, living, loving Person, with Whom we can hold sweet intelligent communication, Who Himself can hear, speak, will, guide, empower, encourage, and comfort.
It is important, because, if He is not a Person, if He is not God, but a mere quality or influence for good, we are as far from God – i.e., from being taken up into God and made one with Him, as we over were. The great chasm which separates God and man, yet yawns wide between them. The yearning desire of man to be one with God, to possess Him and to be united with Him, which is the highest aspiration of the human heart, is not yet effected.
One of the most notorious of those who have held that the Holy Ghost is merely an influence was Macedonius, Archbishop or Metropolitan of Constantinople, A.D. 341. His doctrine was condemned at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, when a considerable addition was made to the creed formulated at Nicaea, A.D. 325. That creed ended, “I believe in the Holy Ghost.” To emphasize the truth of the Godhead of the Spirit in condemnation of Macedonius and his followers, the words which follow – viz., “ the Lord and Giver-of-life, Who proceedeth from the Father (‘and the Son’ being a later addition of the Western Church), Who with the Father and the Son together, is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets,” were added to the Nicene Creed by what is known as the Second General Council – viz., that of Constantinople mentioned above.
Others have held the views maintained by the Macedonians, notably the Socinians, who arose in Reformation times, and who also denied the Deity of the Son; and the same views are held by their successors, the Unitarians of today.
Even in orthodox circles there is much indistinctness and want of clearness of grasp of this most important and comforting doctrine ; and it behoves us, if we would be established, peaceful, and happy Christians, to believe thoroughly in the Deity and Personality of the Holy Ghost.
With reference to the second truth taught us in the Article – for the first and third have been examined together – that which is commonly known as the doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, as well as from the Father; it may be interesting and useful to know that the clause in the Nicene Creed, reproduced in our article, generally known as the “Filioque” clause (filioque – and from the Son), has never been accepted by the Eastern Church, and finds no place in their Creed, the Nicene.
It is first found in a copy of the Nicene Creed read at the Provincial Council of Toledo, in Spain, A.D. 589. It gradually won its way to acceptance in the Western Church as part of the Nicene Creed, and from the year 1014 has permanently found a place in that document as used in the churches of Western Europe. In speaking of this, Dr. Boultbee says (p. 40), “The presumption of the Western portion of the Church in venturing to alter the Creed confirmed by all the great General Councils, added to the assumptions of the Pope, made the great schism between the East and the West, which has never been closed. It has, perhaps, been a Divine mercy in the midst of so general a corruption of Christian doctrine, that the Papal tyranny should have thus received a check, and that a perpetual protest should have been made against it by a Church scarcely purer than itself in matters of doctrine.”
That the Holy Ghost proceeds from, or is sent by the Son, seems distinctly proved from various passages in the Gospel of St. John, and though, perhaps, the insertion of the clause in the Nicene Creed, from which the statement in our Article was taken, on the authority of one section of the Church only, may seem to some unwarrantable, yet, as the doctrine is Scriptural, and very important as bearing on the Deity of the Son, there seems very good reason that our Church should emphasize it, as she has done in the Article under consideration.
Scripture Proofs on Article V.
1. The Personality of the Holy Ghost.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Rom. 8:26, 27.
“But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will.” 1 Cor. 12:11.
2. The Procession from the Father and the Son.
“But when the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father. He shall testify of Me.” John 15:26.
“If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send Him unto you.” John 16:7.
3. His true Godhead.
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart, to lie to the Holy Ghost. ... Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart. Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” Acts 5:3, 4.
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2:22.
Questions on Article V.
1. Give three important truths contained in this Article.
2. What statements made concerning the Holy Ghost in the Scripture prove His Personality?
3. Show the comfort and the importance of the doctrine.
4. What do you know of the heresy of the Macedonians, and by whom is it now held?
5. When and why were the last clauses of the Nicene Creed added?
6. State what you know about the Filioque Clause; justify its retention.
Article VI – Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to Salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to Salvation.”
In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books;–
Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. Joshua. Judges. Ruth. 1 Samuel. 2 Samuel. 1 Kings. 2 Kings. 1 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles. 1 Esdras, i.e., Ezra. 2 Esdras, i.e., Nehemiah. Esther. Job. Psalms. Proverbs. Ecclesiastes or Preacher. Cantica or Songs of Solomon. Four Prophets the Greater. Twelve Prophets the Less.
And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine, such as these following:–
3 Esdras. 4 Esdras. Book of Tobias. The Book of Judith. The rest of the Book of Esther. The Book of Wisdom. Jesus the Son of Sirach. Baruch the Prophet. The Song of the Three Children. The Song of Susanna. Of Bel and the Dragon. The Prayer of Manasses. 1 Maccabees. 2 Maccabees.
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and count them Canonical.
Remarks on the Article.
It will be seen on referring to No. II of these “Readings” that we have now arrived at Part II, consisting of Articles vi to viii, which treats of the Rule of Faith or the Holy Scriptures.
The Article before us, perhaps more than any of the others, marks the Protestant character of the Church of England.
The fundamental idea of Protestantism is that God has revealed His Will to us as to what He requires us to believe and do in order to please Him, in certain Writings, which can be proved historically to be the Writings of inspired men; that those Writings are the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and none other; that each individual has a right to search those Scriptures for himself; and that no man ought to be required to believe anything as requisite to Salvation that is not read in, nor can be proved by, these inspired Writings.
This is the position plainly taken up by our Church in this Article, in which she, like all the Reformed Churches of the Continent and elsewhere, protests against the arrogance and profanity of coordinating, as of equal authority with God’s Word written, the unwritten words of uninspired men and tradition, with reference to the authenticity of which in the nature of things, to say the least, there must always be the greatest uncertainty.
Like many of the other Articles this is highly controversial. It has in view the doctrines of the Church of Rome in this matter, and stamps the Church of England as diametrically opposed in its fundamental teaching to that Church.
This may be proved by a glance at the doctrine of the Roman Church on the authority of the Scripture, as laid down in the Decree of the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent. [See Reading I.]
That Council declared that, “The truth and discipline given by Christ and His Apostles “are contained in books written, and in unwritten traditions, which, having been received from the mouth of Christ Himself by the Apostles, or at the dictation of the Holy Ghost from the Apostles themselves, and transmitted, as it were, by hand, have come down to us. That the Council, therefore, “following the example of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with equal pious affection the books of the Old and New Testament, and the traditions themselves, whether pertaining to faith or manners, as having been orally dictated by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved by continuous succession in the Church Catholic.”
An enumeration of the Canonical Books follows, including a large portion of those which the Church of England pronounces apocryphal. The Council then decrees that the Vulgate (more of this later on) shall be taken as authentic in all public services, and that no one on any pretext shall presume to reject it. Further, that no one shall dare to interpret Scripture against that sense which the Holy Mother Church holds, or against the unanimous consent of the Fathers (as if there were such a thing!) even if the interpretation is not meant for publication.
With respect to the use of the Bible by private persons, the Council decreed (“Concerning prohibited Books”) that he who shall presume to read, or to have a Bible without a license, may not receive absolution until he has surrendered the Bible.
In dealing with Romanists on the subject of the Scriptures, it is to be remembered that these things are binding now, and that every true Churchman from the Romanist point of view is bound by the Decrees and Canons of Trent. They form in every respect the laws, to which every member of that Church is bound to conform, under penalty of anathema – i.e., “Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”
Comment after this on the fundamental difference between the Church of England and that of Rome is superfluous. Suffice it to say that with the Church of England, as with all Protestant Reformed Churches, the Word of God is supreme, as well as the right and duty of every individual to search that Word for himself. With the Church of Rome – and, it is to be feared, with the Greek Church too – the Word of God is not supreme, and no one has a right to search that Word for himself, or to interpret, it except in the way in which his Church – in other words, his own particular priest and confessor – sees fit to allow him.
Article VI – Continued.
This being the case, some one may say, “How am I to know what Books are the Word of God? How am I to distinguish between the Canonical and uncanonical Books? Why should I not regard the Apocrypha as the Word of God?”
To these questions answers may thus be given. The Word of God consists of those Books which are found bound together in an ordinary copy of the English Bible, and none other.
What we know as the Old Testament is exactly the same as the Bible of the modern Jews. It is the same that the Jews had at the time of the Lord and His Apostles. All the Books of the Old Testament are quoted or referred to by our Lord or His Apostles, and they are always regarded by Him and them as the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In fact, our Lord endorses the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures when he says (Luke 24:44), “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.”
The Law, the Prophets, the Psalms are the names which, long before our Lord’s time, the Jews gave to their Bible, which we know as the Old Testament, and which they give to exactly the same Books now.
The Jews never, on the other hand, regarded the books which we call “The Apocrypha” as written by inspired men, although they thought highly of them. Josephus, a contemporary of our Lord, expressly differentiates between them and what we know as the Old Testament, and speaks of this as being the common opinion.
Moreover, these books are never quoted or referred to in the New Testament.
The Books, which we call the New Testament, have been from their very first appearance regarded always as the writings of inspired men, and no other books, save those of the Old Testament have ever at least in the judgment of the Church as a whole – been regarded on an equality with them; and we receive them as Scripture, because the historical evidence in connection with them traces them as to authorship to men known to be inspired of God to write them.
As to this fact, there has – as the Article says – never been any doubt in the Church. Certain of them at first and for a time, by individuals or sections of the Church, have, it is true, been doubted as the work of inspired men – e.g., the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James and Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and the Revelation; but the Church as a whole, so far as its collective judgment and general practice can be gathered, never doubted or varied the Canon.
In fact, no other books, beside those which we find in the Old and New Testaments, have ever been put on the same footing by those best calculated to be able to form an opinion.
So we have in all these things the strongest evidence for believing that what we know as the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments are the work of inspired men; and this, let it be remembered, can be proved of no other book or books in the whole world.
Hence the importance, everywhere emphasized in the Articles, of regarding the Scriptures, and only the Scriptures, as the final court of appeal in any disputed matter of faith or practice.
It has been mentioned that more would be said about the Vulgate. The information necessary may here be appropriately given. The Vulgate is a Latin translation of the Scriptures, made early in the fifth century, A.D., by Jerome, or Hierome, as he is called in the Article. Eusebius Hieronymus, afterwards known as Hierome, or Jerome, was the greatest Christian scholar of his time. He lived in Rome at the end of the fourth century; and to him the work of revising the Latin versions of the Scriptures, which at that time were found to be full of mistakes and mistranslations, was entrusted by Damasus, Bishop of Rome. Jerome was just the man for the work, as he was the only Latin scholar who, in addition to Greek, was thoroughly versed in Hebrew. He first brought out the New Testament, which he revised and corrected by comparing it with the Greek MSS.
The Old Testament, which up to this time had been merely a translation into Latin from the Septuagint (that is, a Greek version of the Old Testament, made at Alexandria, in Egypt, about the year 280 B.C., for the use of the Greek-speaking Jews, and known to scholars by the symbols LXX), he translated straight from the Hebrew. To accomplish this task with greater facility, he took up his residence for a number of years at Bethlehem, in Palestine.
The result was a splendid translation of the Scriptures in tare language of the Western world – which at that time was Latin – which has ever since been known – and justly prized – as the Vulgate, i.e., the translation of the Scriptures in the vulgar or common tongue.
This Bible did excellently for the Western world, as long as the Latin language was spoken everywhere. But gradually, through various influences, the different languages of Europe were evolved from the Latin, and then the Vulgate became a book which none but the learned could understand. But no revisions or translations of it were undertaken, and the consequence was that the truths of God’s Word became concealed from ordinary people throughout the Dark Ages – as they are truly called – until at last the light began to dawn, when Wycliffe gave to the English people a translation of the whole of Jerome’s Vulgate in A.D. 1383.
The words referred to as Jerome’s in this Article are found in the preface to his translation of the Books of Solomon, and are very important, as showing the opinion of Christians of his day as to the Apocrypha.
Jerome translated the books of the Apocrypha (the originals are in Greek, not in Hebrew), and inserted them in his Vulgate, as they had been inserted before, in copies of the LXX, and in old Italian translations of the Old Testament. But Jerome, no more than the Church, no more than the Jews, ever dreamed of looking upon them in the same light as the Scriptures, and expressly tells us how they were regarded by Christians of his day. “They were read,” he says, “for instruction of life and manners, but were never applied by the Church to establish any doctrine.”
It may be useful to know that the name “Apocrypha,” which signifies concealed, or hidden, was given at the Reformation to these Books, which contain much fable or fiction; either to indicate their unknown or hidden origin, or to mark the contrast between them and the volume of revealed truth given by inspiration of God.
The word “Canonical,” is derived from a Greek word, “Canon” (akin to our “cane”), which means a carpenter’s rule, which is used, among other things, to test the straightness or correctness of anything measured by it. Hence the Canon of Scripture (or the Canonical Scriptures) means those inspired writings by which all doctrines and practices have to be tested in order to prove their correctness or otherwise.
Scripture Proofs on Article VI.
1. Testimony of Scripture as to its own sufficiency.
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Ps. 119:105.
“From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation thro’ faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3:15, 16, 17.
2. Authority for refusing to believe anything as necessary to salvation which cannot be proved by Scripture.
“Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God.” Deut. 4:2.
“To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Is. 8:20.
Questions on Article VI.
1. What is the meaning of “Protestantism”?
2. What is the teaching of Rome on the following points?
(a) What are the Scriptures?
(b) How they should be interpreted?
(c) The study of the Scriptures.
3. How do we distinguish between Canonical, and uncanonical books?
4. Why is not the Apocrypha regarded as the Word of God?
5. Give some account of Jerome and his work.
6. By whom, and when was the Vulgate translated into English?
7. Explain “Apocrypha,” “Canonical”.
Article VII – Of the Old Testament.
“The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ Who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have three Articles out of the thirty-nine devoted to the rule of faith. Article VI limits that rule to the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, and is especially directed against the Romanists, who include the Apocrypha and Tradition.
Article VII, at present under consideration, makes important statements as to the authority of the Old Testament, and teaches us how, as Christians, we ought to regard it. Article VIII tells us that the three Creeds may be regarded as a rule of faith because they may be proved by Scripture.
With reference to the present Article, it is believed that its framers had regard in their statements to certain erroneous views with respect to the Old Testament that have often been held among Christians, and especially at the time during which the Articles were drawn up.
If we examine the Article carefully, we shall find three opinions on the subject of the Old Testament distinctly denied therein.
1. The opinion that the Old Testament is not only not in agreement with the New, but is distinctly opposed to it; and that, therefore, in it there is no sign of eternal life being offered through Christ to mankind. Nor is there any trace of the Old Testament saints looking for anything beyond the things of this life, as promised by God.
2. The opinion that the Ceremonies [A Rite is a solemn ordinance; ceremony is the method of administering that ordinance.] and Rites and Civil Precepts of the Law of Moses are binding on Christian States.
3. The opinion that Christians are free from all law, moral as well as ceremonial.
With reference to (1) there have never been wanting from the very beginning of the Christian era, those, especially the heretics, called Gnostics (i.e., those who thought themselves the depositories of all knowledge), who objected to the Old Testament; they spoke of it as a clumsy fabrication, and said that its imperfections were due to the imperfections of its inspirer – the God of the Jews – Whom they did not regard as the supreme God, bit as a Being of limited intelligence and powers. They held that the Messiah was an exalted Being – neither true God nor true man – who came into the world to deliver men from the bondage of the God of the Old Testament and to show the way to eternal life, and that the Christian Dispensation was altogether new and unconnected with the Jewish; in fact, that the Christ of the Gospels was not an incarnation of the God of the Old Testament, but a Being distinct from and in hostility to Him.
It would seem that these notions to a certain extent were revived at the time of the Reformation, and it was thought necessary to combat them.
The Article is content to deny the position altogether as untenable. It tells us (what we cannot fail to see if we compare the New Testament carefully with the Old) that there is no contrariety between them; that as there is but one God and but one way leading between God and man, the one Mediator Christ Jesus, and that as it seems evident from expressions used about them, the Old Testament saints did look forward to a life beyond the grave; they must have depended for this hope on Christ. Hence we are to value and appreciate the Old Testament, and to believe when we read it that the God Who inspired it was saving the old fathers through His only Begotten Son, Who afterwards took flesh and accomplished that work of Redemption for us, in which they shared by anticipation.
With reference to (2) the opinion that the rites and ceremonies and civil law of the Jews are binding on Christian Governments. There have been those who, from earliest times, have held this; notably, those called Judaizers of the first century of the Christian era, who said that unless men were circumcised and kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved. In Reformation times, while it was generally held that the ritual and ceremonial of the Jews had been set aside by God Himself, as proved by the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, it was yet held by some that the civil laws of the Old Testament ought to be upheld in Christian Commonwealths. The Reformers generally felt that these laws applied to a particular nation under peculiar circumstances, and under a theocracy in which the chief government was carried on by God Himself; but that in the very altered circumstances of Christian Commonwealths, not under the immediate government of God, such laws were not necessarily to be enforced. Christian governments were at liberty to adopt laws, they thought, from the Jewish Code, but were not bound to adopt the whole body of the laws, nor to enforce the penalties attached to the infringement of them.
As illustrations of the kind of thing combated in this section of the Article, we read that many of the Puritans held that “we are necessarily tied unto all the judicials of Moses.” Thomas Cartwright, Hooker’s opponent, held that idolaters, among whom he included “Contemners of the Word and Prayers,” should be put to death according to the Mosaic law. Stubbs, 1585, speaking of blasphemers being stoned, adds “which law judicial standeth in force to the world’s end.” The Puritan Colonists, commonly known as the Pilgrim Fathers, enacted some portion of Mosaic judicial law in their new settlement in America, and put it in force with great severity.
With reference to (3) the opinion that Christians are free from all law, moral as well as ceremonial, there have never been wanting, as far back as the days of the Apostles, those who have turned the grace of God into lasciviousness and have used the freedom offered under the Gospel as a cloak for licentiousness. There were many who held these opinions, especially in Germany, at the time of the Reformation.
As many who held them were connected with the sect known as Anabaptists (i.e., Re-baptizers, those who did not hold with infant baptism, but said that the individual must be baptized again at conversion), all those who held them – rather unfairly, it must be granted – were classed as Anabaptists. They proceeded on the assumption that Christ had made them so free by His salvation that they were free to do what they liked, and many ran into frightful immoralities. Some are even charged with holding that to those who had received the Spirit or, in other words, had passed the Anabaptist ordeal of initiation, – adultery itself was no sin.
These are the opinions – called sometimes Antinomian, from their being opposed to all law – combated in the last clause of the Article, by which it is expressly asserted, but not more expressly asserted than by the writers of the New Testament themselves, that all men, without exception, are bound by the moral law – i.e., the law of the Ten Commandments – as a rule of life.
Scripture Proofs Of Article VII.
1. The Old Testament not contrary to the New.
“Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25, 27.
“I continue to this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” Acts 26:22, 23.
2. Eternal Life offered to mankind by Christ both in the Old and New Testaments.
“And did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:3, 4.
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Gal. 3:8.
3. The old Fathers did not look only for transitory promises.
“Verily, I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them.” Matt. 13:17.
“He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. ... But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them a city.” Heb. 11:10, 13, 16.
4. The Ceremonial Law is not binding on Christian men, nor the civil precepts necessary in any Commonwealth.
“There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. Now therefore why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Acts 15:6, 10.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross ... let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Col. 2:14, 17.
5. No Christian man is free from obligation of obedience to the moral law.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment ; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt. 22:37–40.
“If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well; but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point he is guilty of all.” Jas. 2:8–10.
Questions on Article VII.
1. What caused the Reformers to draw up Article VII?
2. What erroneous opinions are denied therein?
3. What is the difference between “Rite” and “Ceremony”?
4. What do you know about the “Gnostics” and their teaching?
5. State the opinions of the Judaizers and Puritans with reference to the Ceremonial Law.
6. Who were the “Anabaptists,” and what errors did they propagate?
7. Explain “Antinomianism”.
Article VIII – Of the Three Creeds.
“The three Creeds – Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed – ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.”
Remarks on the Article.
It is to be noticed that the three Creeds form no addition to the Rule of Faith accepted by the Church of England; she accepts them as authoritative, only because all that is contained in them can be most certainly proved from Holy Scripture, which is the sole Rule of Faith of our Church.
The Nicene Creed, mentioned first, is that which we read in our Communion Service. It takes its name from the fact that it was drawn up almost as we have it at present at the first General Council, which was held at Nicaea or Nike, a little town in Bithynia, a province of Asia Minor, just opposite to Constantinople, in the year A.D. 325. This Council met to condemn the opinion of Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who denied that Christ was God, and of the same essence or being as the Father. His great opponent at the Council was Athanasius, a deacon of the Church of Alexandria, and afterwards its Archbishop. It was through the unceasing efforts of the latter that the expression which we translate “of one substance with the Father” was inserted. It is a translation of one Greek word, viz., “homoousion,” which means “of the same essence or being.”
The expressions relating to the Divinity of the Holy Ghost were added at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381. Hence this Creed is sometimes called the Constantinopolitan Creed.
The words, “and the Son,” used of the procession of the Holy Spirit, are an addition of the Western Church, and have never been accepted by the Eastern or Greek Church.
This Nicene Creed is the Creed of the Greek or Eastern Church, as the Apostles’ is that of the Western.
The practice of reciting the Creed in divine service dates from the middle of the fifth century in the Greek Church, and still later in the Latin. The early use of Creeds was for the instruction of catechumens, i.e., those who were being taught the doctrines and practices of Christians, and as a profession of faith in baptism, but not as a part of the ordinary service of the Church.
The Apostles’ Creed was so called, not because it was composed by the Apostles, for it is not found in existence in their time, but because it contains the doctrines of the Apostles. It is probably an expansion of a simple profession of belief in the facts of Christianity which was demanded of converts on their baptism from the earliest times, which would naturally soon take a shape not very different from this Creed.
It is generally admitted from a comparison of early Creeds that the one which ultimately prevailed in the West, and which we call the Apostles’, is that which was used in the fifth century in the Roman Church, though not in all other Italian Churches. The subsequent authority of Rome made it universal in the West.
It does not appear that the Roman or Apostles’ Creed was ever used in the Eastern Church.
Athanasius’s Creed probably received its name because it set forth so fully the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity. In the Middle Ages, and until the seventeenth century, it was almost universally believed to be the work of Athanasius himself. This view has, owing to progress of historical criticism, been long since proved to be untenable.
Athanasius died in the latter part of the fourth century, but there is no evidence of the existence of this Creed till long after this date.
The most ancient commentary on this Creed is ascribed to Venantus Fortunatius, Bishop of Poitiers, A.D. 570.
The earliest notices of the Creed point to Gaul (France) as the country in which it was written and obtained currency. The most ancient testimony to the reception of the Creed is stated to be a decree of the Council of Autun, in France, A.D. 677.
The Creed was received in the Gallican or French Church in the seventh, or perhaps the sixth, century, and in the Spanish Church about the same time. Charlemagne, Emperor of the West (A.D. 768–814), held it in high esteem, and in his days its use extended into Germany, Italy, and England. It has been only partially received in the Eastern Church.
If this Creed had one author, and was not, as some think, gradually put together and composed of extracts from various writers on the Trinity, such as Augustine – in whose writings are found expressions very similar to some used in the Creed – Hilary, Bishop of Arles, in France, was most probably that author. What is known of his style and his study of the works of Augustine harmonizes with this supposition. It is also affirmed by the writer of his life that he composed an admirable exposition of the Creed, which probably refers to this very document. For it was rarely called in ancient times Symbolum, i.e., Creed, but “An Exposition of the Catholic Faith,” or some similar descriptive title.
Upon the whole, it seems we may conclude that this creed was probably written by Hilary, Bishop of Arles (A.D. 430).
As an explanation of the Perfect Godhead and Perfect Manhood of the Saviour, it stands unrivalled for terseness and clearness of expression; but as might be expected in such a document, there is much that is necessarily hard to be understood by the ordinary Christian, unversed in the different heresies that have gathered round the complex personality of the Saviour. Hence, though an occasional public recital of it by the congregation may be attended with considerable usefulness, it would seem, on the whole, to be better suited to the classroom. In fact it was probably intended rather as a private guide for the preachers and teachers of Christianity than for public recitation by the congregation.
Scripture Proofs on Article VIII.
It is not necessary to give here Scriptural proof of the several clauses in the Creeds, because most of them occur under other articles; but the best general confirmation which Scripture affords to this article will be found on reference to 2 Tim. 1:13, Titus 1:9, 1 Tim. 6:3.
An examination of these texts seems to lead to the conclusion that forms of words similar to our Creeds, if not identical with parts of them, were in all probability in use in Apostolic times for the purpose of instructing believers in the truths of Christianity.
Questions on Article VIII.
1. Give some account of the drawing up of the Nicene Creed.
2. What do you know of Athanasius, Arius ?
3. Explain “ homoousion.” What additions to the Creed were made in 381, and where?
4. What have you to say of the Apostles’ Creed?
5. What traces have we in the New Testament of the use of Creeds?
6. What have you to say of the date and authorship of the Athanasian Creed?
7. Why was it drawn up, and for what was it probably intended?
Article IX – Of Original or Birth Sin.
“Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby plan is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh, is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no/condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence, and lust, hath of itself the nature of sin.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have here a distinct and valuable pronouncement on the doctrine – much misunderstood – concerning the sinful nature we all inherit from our First Parents, generally known as Original or Birth Sin. We are first told what it is not, then what it is.
It does not consist in merely imitating Adam, according to the false notions of the Pelagians.
It should be understood that these Pelagians were the followers of a Welsh monk called Morgan, who, when he travelled abroad, took the name Pelagius, which means in Greek what Morgan. means in English, viz., “born from the sea”. He lived early in the fifth century. His followers called themselves Pelagians after their master. They denied the corruption of our nature and the necessity of divine grace to bring us back to God. They said that Adam, by his fall into sin, only hurt himself, and that all children are born as Adam was created, pure and sinless. They thought that a sufficient reason for the universal wickedness of mankind was to be found in the fact that men have a tendency to follow a bad example; and so they said that all men are sinful because they have all followed Adam’s bad example, not because they have a natural tendency inherited from him giving them a bias in the wrong direction.
We are not surprised to learn that they made little of the Atonement and Divine Grace, and contended that men may keep the Commandments and attain to a state of perfection in this life if they choose. In fact, they were the fathers of present-day Perfectionists.
The Article next tells us what this original sin is.
Shallow and inadequate views have been held on the subject by others beside the Pelagians. Rome, as she has done in the case of so many heresies, first repudiated, but afterwards virtually adopted, Pelagianism.
The Article, in stating what original sin is, has reference to the doctrine of Rome on the subject. Hence it will contribute to a clearer understanding of the wording of the Article if we know what the Roman Church holds with reference to the matter in question.
According to the school authors, that is, the Mediaeval Theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, whom Rome follows, the original righteousness in which Adam stood was no part of his nature, but a supernatural gift superadded some time after his creation. They say that he was created mortal, but had the superadded gift of immortality. Hence the result of the Fall was simply a withdrawal of the superadded gifts, and a reduction of man to the state in which he was created. The state of Adam after the Fall differs from the state of Adam before it no more than a man who is stripped differs from a naked man. Nor is human nature worse, if you take away original sin (which is forgiven and taken away, according to Romish, teaching, in Baptism), nor does it labour more with ignorance and infirmity than it would labour, had it continued as it came, straight from the Creator’s hands.
So we see that, according to Romish theology, Adam was originally (spiritually) naked. He was mortal. He was then clothed with the supernatural gifts of grace and immortality. Upon his fall he was stripped of these and became spiritually naked and mortal, just as he was created; save that the Almighty now viewed him with displeasure, as a creature who had trifled with and lost precious gifts, and was destitute of that which he ought to have retained. Thus original sin is not a positive quality or inherent evil disposition, but simply an absence of the original righteousness.
How, then, does Rome deal with a more practical and more formidable question, the most conspicuous and disastrous feature in man’s history – his tendency to sin?
On the above theory – that man is now as his Creator made him, but viewed by God with displeasure for trifling with His gifts – this tendency, to which they gave the name of “Concupiscentia” (used also in our Article) was denied to be sin. For if fallen man stood as Adam stood, in all purely natural respects, and was only exposed to wrath as lacking the gifts he had trifled with, then the Concupiscence or tendency to sin had in it no necessary guilt. For man was in this respect as God made him, and that could not be a state of guilt.
Thus, according to Romish Theology, man is not such a bad sort of creature. If he is baptized God no longer views him with displeasure, his original sin is forgiven and taken out of him, and all that remains for him to do is to earn his own salvation by the help of the Church. By his good works he lays up a store of merit, which, with the help of Christ’s merits and those of the saints, will stand him in good stead. If he commits sins, he must atone for them by penance and purgatory, and masses through which the merits of Christ’s death can be applied to help his own satisfactions.
Rome’s authoritative statement on the subject of Original Sin, may be found in a decree passed at the Fifth Session of the Council of Trent. It runs thus: – “If anyone denies that through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is confirmed in Baptism, the guilt of Original Sin is remitted; or, moreover, asserts that the whole is not taken away of that which has the true and proper nature of sin, but says it is only cut down or not imputed; let him be anathema. Nevertheless, this Holy Council doth confess and is of opinion that Concupiscence, or the fuel of sin, remaineth in the baptized, which being left for the purpose of trial, cannot hurt those who do not consent to it, but manfully through the Grace of Christ resist it. The Holy Council declares that the Catholic Church hath never understood that this Concupiscence, which the Apostles sometimes call sin, is called sin because sin is truly and properly in the regenerate, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin. If anyone hold a contrary opinion, let him be anathema.”
So tradition, fables, science falsely so called, profane and vain babblings are followed while God’s truth is ignored. Well, indeed, it is for Rome that she conceals the Scriptures from her people. In fact she could not give her followers the Word of God; it would be nothing less than suicide on her part to do it. The Sword of the Spirit hews her in pieces. Beneath the blows of the hammer of God’s Word, which breaketh the rock in pieces, the whole vast system of oppression and falsehood – reared by man, devised by the devil – crumbles to the earth in remediless ruin.
Article IX – Continued.
We are now in a position to appreciate the differences of teaching of the Church of England and the Church of Rome on the important subject of Original Sin.
With the Church of Rome, as we have seen, Original Sin consists in the loss of Original Righteousness, which has brought unbaptized mankind into a state in which God views him with displeasure, for having trifled with and lost his superadded gift of immortality or righteousness, as they style it; and in which he has become somewhat weakened morally. But all this is set right by Baptism. The baptized Christian is in the state in which Adam and Eve were, when they had the superadded gift of immortality conferred on them; and his tendency to sin is not to be regarded as sin. And this is based on unscriptural speculations and tradition.
Now what says the Church of England, basing her doctrine on the Word of God? She tells us that this thing called Original or Birth Sin is a taint or disease, found in every son of Adam (Christ only excepted); for she knows that God has said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean” Not one” (Job 14:4). And again, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
Our Church next goes on to tell us that owing to this fell and awful corruption, inherited from Adam, man has not only lost that purity and uprightness of nature in which our first parents were created, but has departed as far as possible from it, and has such a bias and inclination towards what is evil, and is so utterly crooked and depraved, that the flesh or self-principle is always desiring things that are opposed to the Spirit of God, pleading as He does immediately with the Soul, and mediately through the Word of God; and that, therefore, this abominably wicked thing found in every person born into this world – so full of hostility and rebellion against a good and righteous God – must necessarily deserve God’s wrathful indignation and utter condemnation. For again, what saith the Lord? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” And again, does she not find Paul testifying to this effect in the words recorded in Gal. 5:17, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” These are words surely, which, spoken as they are of Christians, tell us as plainly as possible that this lusting is always going on. Nor can she hesitate to say that this principle deserves God’s wrath and damnation, when she finds written, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and again, “We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).
And what is more, and very important in these days of shallow teaching on sin and the corruption of the human heart, our Article goes on to say that this sinful disposition, which has become part of our nature by Adam’s fall, still remains in us after we have become born again, and made partakers of a new nature by the Spirit; to such an extent that this lust of the flesh, or desire to have our own way in spite of God, which the Scriptures speak of as the mind or will of our fallen nature, cannot be controlled. by the law of God, so as to yield it a hearty and willing obedience. That our Church is justified in making such statements will be evident to the impartial mind, when it is confronted with such passages as the following: “There is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 9:46); “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8); “The carnal mind (phronema sarkos) is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be “ (Romans 8:7).
But the Article is careful to add that, though we must carry this disease and taint about with us as long as we are here; in spite of it, there is perfect forgiveness and acceptance and eternal life for those that believe, and are all that their baptism assures them that they are; but it will not for a moment allow that this tendency to sin is mere infirmity; it assures us that the Apostle Paul teaches us that this desire to have our own way in spite of God’s commandments has the nature or essence of sin, that is, that it is sin.
Our state of acceptance in spite of our sinfulness may be based on the following well-known text: “ There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). While the statement that Paul calls this lust, or concupiscence, “sin,” may be gathered plainly from the words of the Apostle in Rom. 7:7, where he says: “I had not known sin but by the law, for I had not known lust (or concupiscence) except the law had said, thou shalt not covet.” Hence we see that the Apostle, at any rate, regards mere desire for what God forbids, as sin.
Scripture Proofs of Article IX.
1. Original sin is the fault and corruption of every man.
“How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” Job 25:4.
“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ... by one man’s offence death reigned by one ... by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation ... by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” Rom. 5:12, 17, 18, 19.
2. Man is very far gone from original righteousness, and naturally inclined to evil.
“There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” Eccl. 7:20.
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Rom. 3:10–12.
3. The flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit.
“The imaginations of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen. 8:21.
“I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me; for I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me unto captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Rom. 7:21, 23.
4. This evil nature deserves God’s wrath, and damnation.
“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Ezek. 18:4.
“By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Rom. 5:18.
5. This infection remains in the regenerate, and is not subject to the law of God.
“Who can say, I have made my heart clean I am pure from my sin?” Prov. 20:9.
“For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me; I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? ... So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Rom. 7:18–25.
6. There is no condemnation for Christians.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned.” John 3:16, 18.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come unto condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” John 5: 24.
7. Concupiscence and lust have the nature of sin.
“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” Rom. 7:8.
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” Col. 2:5, 6.
Questions on Article IX.
1. Who were the Pelagians, and what was their teaching?
2. What was the doctrine of the School Authors regarding Original Sin?
3. What is the Romish teaching concerning man’s tendency to sin?
4. Explain “concupiscencia” “phronema sarkos”. How is this expression translated in the New Testament?
5. Give as nearly as you can the statements of the Council of Trent on the subject.
6. What are the statements of the Article respecting (a) Original Sin, (b) The sinful tendency in Man, (c) The state of acceptance of believers?
Article X – Of Free Will.
“The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God: Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.”
Remarks on the Article.
An objection is often taken to this Article – apparently without good reason – to the effect that it seems to deprive us of free choice in any matter; whereas we know by experience that when two courses are put before us, we have the power to reject the one and follow the other. In fact, in ordinary circumstances, we find that we can go where we like, do what we like, say what we like, and think what we like.
But it is to be noticed that the Article says nothing about the freedom of the will in the ordinary circumstances of life. This would be accepted as a matter of course by those who drew it up. What it does say, and say very strongly, is that with reference to one thing the will is not free; and that is, in the matter of spontaneously choosing the service of God in connection with Christ Jesus, but is in bondage, yea, even in the strongest chains, until God by His grace sets it free, and makes the man willing to serve Him.
The doctrine of the Article follows naturally on the conclusions arrived at in Article IX. In that Article we were told that man is so hurt by his vital connection with his first parents, that he is as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and is in a state of constant rebellion and hostility to God. We are not therefore surprised to find it stated in this Article that it is impossible for him, being what he is through his connection with Adam, to turn and live to God without an impulse in that direction being first given him by God.
What then is the teaching of the Article? Just this, that man, through his connection with fallen Adam, is in such a bondage to sin and the self-principle that he is utterly unable to take the first step in turning to God. He has no ability to prepare himself unaided, and to bring himself by acceptable deeds into a state in which he .henceforth trusts God, and calls upon Him as his Protector and Keeper. In fact, he is utterly unable, being what he is, full of sin and rebellion, to work himself up by his own good resolutions and meritorious actions into a state of acceptance with God. This is utterly beyond his power as a fallen and depraved being. So we may conclude that man in this particular is altogether a debtor to grace. The power to do good works of a kind that are pleasing and acceptable to God is only to be obtained through the grace of God, which anticipates and suggests the movement of the will towards God, and which so reveals Christ to the soul as its Saviour and Redeemer, that the man develops a desire and a power to live to God who first loved him, and passes into that state in which he finds himself possessed of a goodwill to serve Him; into a state in which he believes in the existence of God as he never believed before; His goodwill towards him as manifested in the gift of His Son (which he has now received with empty hands); His willingness and ability to help him; a state in which, owing to this new faith in God, he calls upon Him, and in answer to prayer, finds Him working in him both to will and to do: but a state in which he finds himself utterly unable to continue, and from which he knows he would at once fall, if God did not by continuous supplies of grace in answer to prayer, constantly work with him, renewing his will and giving him power to continue in the ways of God.
This being so, Why, some one asks, are we addressed in the Word of God as if we had the power to choose God and turn to Him? Why are we bidden to repent and believe the Gospel? Why does Christ say, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? The answer, perhaps, is to be found in the thought that in such words as these, such appeals to men as we find in the Word of God, God really comes first and arrests the attention, and stirs men up to seek from Him those things which He commands them to do. It is only on some such supposition as this that we can reconcile with these appeals, truths like those contained in the words, “No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). It is God’s way of drawing men to Christ, to appeal to them as if the choice all lay with them, and then through the appeal – by which they are directed to believe on Christ – so to set their intellects and hearts to work, that they are led to accept Him as their Saviour; then by union with Him, effected by this God-given faith, He puts within them the new heart and the new spirit, yea, and His own Holy Spirit also, by whose aid, continuously given in answer to faithful prayer, they are able to serve God acceptably, and to do good works that are pleasing in His sight.
God’s appeal to us to repent and believe although we are by nature dead in sin, and utterly unable to do what He bids us – presents just the same, and no greater, difficulties than the command of God to Ezekiel to prophesy to dead bones (Ezek. 37). It presents just the same and no greater difficulties than the command of the Lord Jesus to the man with the withered arm. The man’s arm was weak and helpless, and in all probability he was utterly unable to raise it. Yet the Lord says, “Stretch forth thine hand. And he did so; and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Luke 6:10). He was commanded to do an impossibility, yet with the command comes the strength. He certainly could not have done it unless the Lord first had given the strength. Yet he was told to do it. So with man’s will it is powerless, and warped, and unable to choose God. God commands him to believe, and lo! by some mysterious power he is able. Yet God is the first mover in making him willing. The man is willing because of the Lord’s power working through the command, and so is fulfilled the Scripture which says, “Thy people shall be willing in- the day of Thy power” (Ps. 110:3).
The object of the Article seems to be to point out that the leading of a man to repentance, the turning of a man to God, and his life to God when so turned, is from first to last the work of God. God stirs, God gives power to choose Christ. God gives the goodwill to serve, and God alone continues it. Its aim is to magnify the grace of God, and to keep man in his proper place; to throw man for all that is good on God alone, and to impress upon him the absolute necessity of being converted by God, and of seeking conversion from God alone, so that the Lord alone may be exalted, and the pride of man abased.
Hence all that the Article means to assert is, that the will of man, otherwise free, is, in one case only, unable to assert itself. It cannot, by reason of its warped condition brought about by the fall of Adam, first choose God and His service in connection with Jesus Christ. God must move first, and then when the goodwill is given it is He, and He alone, who can help the will to choose what is good and right, and pleasing and acceptable in His sight.
Scripture Proofs of Article X.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings:
1. Fallen man cannot of himself turn to God.
“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Prov. 16:1.
“No man can come unto Me, except it were given him of My Father.” John 6:65.
2. Prevenient or preventing (in the sense of “coming before”) grace is needful before our work can please God.
“A deceived heart hath turned him aside that he cannot deliver his soul nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Is. 44:20.
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Rom. 9:16.
3. This prevenient grace gives us “the goodwill”.
“Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote my thigh.” Jer. 31:18, 19.
“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10.
4. The cooperating grace is needful after the goodwill has been received.
“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Jer. 10:23.
“Without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5.
Questions on Article X.
1. What objection is taken to this Article?
2. Show how it is the natural outcome of Article IX.
3. Give the teaching of the Article on “Total Depravity” and “Divine Sovereignty”.
4. Meet the objection, that God’s commands to turn to Him are in vain, if we have no power to do so.
5. Show from Scripture that God commands men to do impossibilities.
Article XI – Of the Justification of Man.
“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings.
“Wherefore that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.”
Remarks on the Article.
If there is one Article for which we owe a deeper debt of gratitude to our Reformers than for another – though all are models of clearness and good sense – it is the one under consideration.
It may be described as the Cardinal Article of the Christian Religion, by which it differs in toto from all other religions, and owing to which Christianity is the blessing to men that it is; for by it we are lovingly and mercifully directed to accept of an everlasting salvation, in all things ordered and sure, wrought out by a perfect Substitute, instead of being committed – as we are by all other religions – to the hopeless task of saving ourselves by our own efforts.
Luther has styled the doctrine of Justification by Faith only without the deeds of the law, “the Article of a standing or falling Church”; by which he means that the Church which holds and teaches this doctrine is in a satisfactory state as a Church in God’s sight; while the Church that holds and teaches it not has no standing as a Church in the sight of God, but rather is to be regarded as having fallen away from the Truth as it is in Jesus.
It is in holding this Article that the Church of England is as far as the poles asunder from the Church of Rome. As long as the Church of Rome holds what she does on this doctrine, and the Church of England what she does, reunion between the two is simply an impossibility, without a disgraceful compromise which, on our part, at any rate would mean – Death. For we should have to give up Christ as the sinner’s only Saviour, and substitute in His place the broken reed of self.
The great difference between the two Churches seems to have arisen, in a measure, with reference to the interpretation of the Greek word, which in our version is rendered “justify”.
The Romanists hold that the Greek word we render “to justify” means “to make righteous,” and that therefore a man is justified when he is made or turned into a righteous and good man. But in this opinion they are not supported by Greek authors, who consistently use the term to signify “to account righteousness or reckon as righteous” a very different thing, of course.
Understanding, then, the words of St. Paul, “We are justified by faith,” to mean “we are made righteous by faith; the Church of Rome at the Council of Trent defined justification, not as remission of sin merely, but also sanctification and the renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of grace and divine gifts, so that he who was unrighteous is made righteous, and the enemy becomes a friend and an heir according to the hope of eternal life. We are also told in the decrees of this Council, that this justification takes place at Baptism, which is the Sacrament of Faith, without which no one can ever obtain justification. So that according to Roman teaching every baptized person – infant as well as adult – and no other, is justified by faith i.e., has not only all sin remitted but is turned, “owing to the work worked” in Baptism into a righteous person, a doctrine as difficult to reconcile with facts as with Scripture, for according to it we are to believe that faith means Baptism, and that all the baptized are veritably righteous people, although for the most part they live ungodly lives.
In order to meet this difficulty they have invented what they call a second justification. The fourteenth chapter of the Decrees of the Council of Trent, says that “those who by sin have fallen from the grace of justification received, may be justified again, when, moved by divine influence, they succeed in recovering their lost grace by the Sacrament of Penance through the merits of Christ. For this method of justification is that recovery of the lapsed, which the holy fathers have fitly called ‘The second plank after Shipwreck’ of lost grace”. Now, as all baptized people are expected to do penance, what does this mean but that the Church of Rome teaches that a man is really saved by his own works and not by faith in Christ only as the Word of God says? She would not acknowledge that this is her teaching, but it is difficult to see to what other conclusion it is possible to come, after a careful examination of her doctrines.
Now let us come to the teaching of our own Church as set forth in the Article.
Bearing in mind that the accepted and undoubted meaning of the term “to justify” is “to account or reckon, or consider righteous,” we are given a clear and concise exposition of the great Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith, in which the words are allowed their acknowledged meaning, and are not wrested. and explained away.
In the first place, it is to be noticed that the Article does not treat of our righteousness in the sight of men. Here we are accounted righteous until proved the reverse in a court of law. But it is our justification in the sight of God that is to be explained and defined.
In God’s sight we are looked upon as righteous people because of the perfect obedience unto death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in our place, and through the instrumentality of faith, i.e., when we believe what God tells us about Christ in His Word. The message is, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and with His stripes we are healed.” Everyone is accounted to be as perfectly righteous, as if he himself had suffered the punishment of his own sins on the Cross, who believes, on the authority of the Word of God, that God in Christ has borne it for him.
No wonder that the Article goes on to say that for this reason the doctrine of justification by faith only is a most health-giving one, and very full of comfort, as it throws the whole responsibility of our everlasting salvation on the Lord Jesus, and tells us that all we have to do in order to be accepted with God is to believe in Christ as our law-keeping and law-vindicating substitute.
The Homily of Justification referred to is, in all probability, that which bears the name of “The Salvation of Mankind,” which stands third in the first Book of the Homilies. In this Homily we have most clearly set forth the work of Christ in His life and death, and are told that our salvation is due entirely to the way in which He kept the law by His perfect obedience and then died the death our sins deserved, and that this salvation is ours if we believe.
Let it be observed that the righteousness spoken of in the Article is not what is known as inherent righteousness or the righteousness of sanctification, which is of gradual growth and utterly imperfect at its best; but the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, always perfect and always the same, the priceless treasure of every believer, and owing to which, he is at all times, from the first moment that he believes, perfectly acceptable to God; and regarded – for Christ’s sake – as if in every detail of deed, word, and thought, he had perfectly fulfilled the holy, and just, and good law of God.
Scripture Proofs of Article XI.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following propositions: –
1. The justification of the sinner is the same thing as the accounting him righteous.
“If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.” Rom. 4:2, 3. (See Rom. 4:21, 25.)
2. The meritorious cause of justification is – (a) positively, “The merit of Christ,” Jer. 23:6; “The Lord our righteousness,” see 2 Cor. 5:21; (b) negatively, not our works or deserving; “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” Rom. 3:20. (See Tit. 3:5.)
3. The instrumental cause of justification in the sinner himself is faith.
“That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident; for the just shall live by faith.” Gal. 3:2. (See Rom. 3:20, 26.)
4. Nothing is coupled with faith in this particular office, which it has in justification.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” John 6:47. (See Acts 16:31.)
5. The salutary and consoling nature of the doctrine.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord ; my soul shall be joyful in my God : for He hath clothed me in the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” Is. 59:10. (See Rom. 5:1, 2, 11.)
Questions on Article XI.
1. Show how this is the Cardinal Article of our religion.
2. What did Luther say of the doctrine of Justification by Faith?
3. Give the Roman view of “justification” as opposed to the Reformers.
4. What do you understand by “Being justified by Faith”?
5. What have you to say of the word “only”?
6. What is the Homily of Justification?
7. Distinguish between “imputed” and “imparted” righteousness.
Article XII – Of Good Works.
“Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s Judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.”
Remarks on the Article.
This Article distinctly tells us that those good works, which are produced in our hearts and show themselves in our lives, after we have become accounted righteous by faith in the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have no power to blot out our sins, i.e., no atoning virtue in them; neither can they, by reason of their imperfections, through our innate sinfulness, which more or less taints everything we think and say and do, stand God’s sifting and piercing gaze, inasmuch as God is content with nothing short of perfection, if it is to have any atoning value with Him.
Hence it is clear that our good works have nothing whatever to do with putting away our sins and winning eternal life. This great work of putting away sin, and winning eternal life has been already accomplished by the sinless Substitute, Christ Jesus the Lord; and is the priceless property of everyone who chooses to believe in it. Hence there is no need, even if there were the possibility – which there is not – for the believer to add anything of his own in order to supplement – Perfection.
In fact, the attempt to do so is as useless as it is presumptuous. Turning to the Council of Trent, we find that the doctrine of the Church of Rome on this point is very different.
In “Session VI, Canon 32,” we hear her thus speaking “Whosoever shall say that the good works of a justified man are in such a sense the gifts of God, that they are not good merits of the justified man himself, or that a justified man by good works which are done by hire, through the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ, of Whom he is a living member, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the actual attainment of eternal life, if he die in grace, together with increase of glory, let him be anathema.”
But while the Article is careful to disclaim the least merit of good works as capable of deserving anything at the hands of the pure and holy God, it is careful to emphasize the truth, that the believer’s good works, the result of his union with Christ by the Spirit, are pleasing and acceptable to God. God looks upon them with favour, as prompted by the Spirit of His Son, who dwells in the believer. He is pleased with them, and in spite of their imperfections, will most certainly reward them, not with eternal life, for eternal life is the gift of God, but with an increase of glory in ways which we are now utterly unable to understand, but none the less real for all that.
Moreover, these good works are the necessary outcome of a faith which is real and living, that is, they show whether a man is really justified, really a living branch in the True Vine, or not; inasmuch as a lively faith, or a real and not a counterfeit justification, may be, by these good works, as clearly proved as a living tree is able to be distinguished from dead trees by the tokens of life in the way of leaves and fruit that are found on it.
Hence we are taught that where true justifying faith is, there it must show itself; and that if a man professing to be a Christian is bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit, viz., love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, we may conclude that he is a justified man; that is, one who is accounted righteous in God’s sight by faith in the merits of Christ; but that if these fruits do not appear, there is no ground for supposing that the man in question is a true believer.
If the first part of the Article is directed against the errors of Rome, it may be said with equal truth that the latter part has in view the errors and extravagances of the Antinomians, many of whom at the time of the Reformation were found in the ranks of the Anabaptists, i.e., rebaptizers, a sect of believers who did not hold with infant baptism, and affirmed that all ought to be baptized again at Conversion.
These people, called Antinomians from the fact that they maintained that the Christian was so free by his redemption that he was at liberty to live as he liked, paying no attention to the law of God as a rule of life (anti – against ; nomos – law), ran into all kinds of immoral excesses; and in Germany, especially, they gave Luther a great deal of trouble, owing to the grievous and lamentable caricature of the Gospel which they presented. In fact, an outburst of such error may generally be expected on the occasion of great evangelical revivals. It is a favourite weapon of the devil, to bring the doctrine of free grace into disrepute. Paul was charged falsely with being an Antinomian when men accused him of teaching, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom. 6:8). And he himself had to contend with real Antinomians, when he wrote the words, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18, 19). So that while we are taught in the Article that good works have no value at all in the way of atonement and expiation of sin, we are also told clearly that they are expected of the Christian, as an evidence that he is a true believer, and that where true faith is, it must necessarily show itself by works; for as the Scripture saith, “Faith worketh,” i.e., proves its presence in a man, by love; and love we know from the same authority is obedience to God’s Commandments.
We may arrange these conveniently under the following propositions : –
1. Good works are the fruit of Faith, and follow after justification.
“By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35.
“And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes.” Acts 16:32.
2. They cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment.
“By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” Rom. 3:20.
“Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.” Ps. 143:2.
3. Good works are pleasing and acceptable to God.
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” John 15:8.
“To do good and to communicate, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Heb. 13:16.
4. The necessity of good works as evidences of a true and lively faith.
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.” Matt. 7:16.
“Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Rom. 8:9.
Questions on Article XII.
1. What does this Article teach us that Good Works cannot do?
2. What does the Council of Trent say of Good Works?
3. In what sense are Good Works pleasing to God?
4. Show the necessity of good works as proving justification.
5. Against what errors is the latter part of the Article directed?
6. Prove from Scripture that Good Works are rewarded.
Article XIII – Of Works before Justification.
“Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School Authors say), deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.”
Remarks on the Article.
In Article XII we were told what good works really are, and how that they are expected from all believers. Here we are told of works, often spoken of as “good,” but without Scriptural authority to that effect, undertaken more especially with a view to earning salvation from God.
The Article has in view the ideas of the theologians of the Middle Ages, which have become part and parcel of Roman teaching.
The School Authors mentioned, are such people as Thomas Aquinas, Peter Lombard, Duns Scotus, and a host of others, generally known as Schoolmen, who used to dispute on religious subjects, in the various Schools of Theology to be found more especially in France and Italy.
It was an accepted notion among them that there were two classes of good works. The first might be done by men before they had received grace i.e., before they had come into vital union with Christ; the second, afterwards. They held that both kinds of good works were rewarded by God. The former, not so much because they deserved reward of justice, but from a sort of fitness; technically known as “de congruo” (“of congruity”) the latter, because they really deserved reward in justice and of debt, and for their worth, technically known as “de condigno,” (“of worthiness”).
They seemed to lose sight of the fact of the taint and corruption of our nature, inherited from our first parents, which must more or less pollute everything that we do; and thus deprive our works of any intrinsic value of their own; and also of the fact, most clearly reiterated again and again in Scripture, that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by works, that salvation or a state of acceptance with God can be secured.
Against such unscriptural notions as these, the Article protests, by emphatically stating that such works, to which it significantly refuses to give the title of “good,” as are done by the natural man, before he has accepted the forgiveness of his sins through Christ’s merits, and through union with Him by the Holy Ghost has become the possessor of His Spirit, are not such as arc pleasing and acceptable in God’s sight, inasmuch as they are not done from a right motive, prompted, that is, by the spirit of Christ whom the believer in Him receives. Neither can they be regarded as an inducement to God to confer the grace of salvation upon those doing them; in accordance with the unscriptural notions of the theologians of the Middle Ages, who think that such grace ought to be conferred as a reward from a sort of fitness. Not only so, but we are further distinctly told, that, seeing that such works are not done as God hath willed and commanded that they should be done, i.e., in absolute and perfect accordance with His mind and appointments, but are full of imperfections and shortcomings, by reason of the tainted source from which they proceed; there is no doubt but that they are sinful and bad, and that therefore in themselves they are utterly unable to earn any reward of any kind at the hands of a holy God, of Whom it is said (Job. 15:15), “Behold He putteth no trust in His saints; yea the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity like water?”
But while the Article most clearly assures us that the works of unregenerate men are not such as God can be thoroughly pleased with, owing to the sin with which they are tainted, and for the same reason cannot possibly earn salvation from a holy God, who in this connection is satisfied with nothing short of perfection; yet we are not thereby to suppose that the virtuous actions of such men are not more pleasing to God than their vicious. All we are taught is that works, however good from man’s point of view, cannot, by reason of their sinfulness, thoroughly win God’s approval, or induce Him to grant salvation as their reward. Salvation is a free gift to the believer, and works, to be really good and pleasing in God’s sight, are those which spring from faith in Christ, inspired by God the Holy Ghost, who makes the believer’s heart His temple, and works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure. But even such works, though graciously regarded as good by a loving Father are full of sin – for “who is there that sinneth not?” – and are only acceptable because Christ our High Priest presents them and makes them so by His merits and intercession.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings : –
1. Works done before justification are not pleasing to God.
“By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” Rom. 3:20.
“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Rom. 8:8.
2. Such works do not make men meet to receive grace.
“By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8, 9.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5.
3. Such works have the nature of sin.
“We are all of us as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and our iniquities like the wind, have taken us away.” Isa. 64:6.
“The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. 8:7.
“As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” Gal. 3:10.
Questions on Article XIII.
1. Who were the School Authors?
2. What was their teaching upon Good Works? Explain “de congruo” “de condigno.”
3. Show the unscripturalness of their teaching.
4. Why cannot the works of an unregenerate man be “good”?
Article XIV – Of Works of Supererogation.
“Voluntary works besides, over and above God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are hound to do, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We be unprofitable servants,”
Remarks on the Article.
The term “supererogation” used in this Article has to do with parliamentary procedure on the part of the old Romans. The work “rogare” was used to mean what we mean by the expression “ to bringing in a bill.” The word “erogare” was applied to the bringing in of a bill for paying money out of the Treasury. “Supererogam” then came to mean “to pay out of the Treasury of our good works more than the amount asked for.”
Theologically, then, “works of supererogation” mean works paid by the individual to God over and above what God has a right to demand. It was thought that very good Christians had more good works than they needed to secure their own salvation, and that these could be applied to help out those who were not so good – for a consideration!
This most monstrous, but withal most lucrative, of all Papal pretensions first comes into prominence in the thirteenth century, and was discussed dogmatically by the School Authors (see preceding “Reading,”) of the day. Alexander of Hales and Albertus Magnus invented the doctrine of the “Thesaurus Supererogationis Perfectorum” (“The Treasury of the overpaying of the perfected ones”) out of which, by virtue of the power of the keys (in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, delegated to Bishops and Priests in communion with him) not only the temporal penalties of the living for sin, but agreeably to the extension of the power of the keys over the dead, long ere now established, the penalties also of men suffering in Purgatory were discharged.
Thomas Aquinas (1274) completed this theory. His words are, “ Indulgences hold good both ecclesiastically and in respect of the judgment of God, for the remission of the residuum of punishment after contrition, and absolution and confession. The reason why they hold good is the unity of the mystical body in which many have supererogated (done more than was required of them) in works of penitence beyond the measure of their debts, and have patiently endured many unjust tribulations, by which a multitude of punishments could have been discharged had they been owing: of whose merits so great is the abundance that they exceed the punishment now due to the living, and especially by reason of the merit of Christ. ... But it has been said above (referring to a former part of the Treatise from which this quotation comes) that one man can satisfy for another. But the saints in whom a superabundance of works of satisfaction is found, wrought not works of this kind definitely for him who needs Remission (otherwise he would obtain Remission without an indulgence), but in common for the whole Church ... and so the aforesaid merits are the common property of the whole Church. But that which is the common property of a number is distributed to individuals of that number at the will of him who presides over it.” [See “Boultbee,” p. 125.]
In accordance with these ideas the Church presided over by the Bishop of Rome teaches that while the eternal punishment of sin is remitted to the believer for the merits of Christ, the temporal punishment must be suffered by the true penitent, both in this world and in Purgatory before he can be admitted to Heaven. But so inexhaustible is the treasury containing the superfluous merits of Christ and the Virgin and all the Saints, that the penitent may draw on these by almsgiving, fastings, pilgrimages, telling of beads, money payments, etc., in commutation of the penalties due as temporal punishments for his sins. In this way he may acquire – owing to the merits of the Saints which he has purchased in any of the aforementioned ways – immunity from punishment which he must otherwise suffer here, and can also secure hundreds, nay thousands, nay millions of years excused from Purgatory which otherwise he would have to spend in its awful torments.
It was this doctrine, so shamelessly taught in the sixteenth century, which led immediately to the Reformation in Germany. Leo X wanted money to build St. Peter’s Cathedral at Rome, and indulgences were hawked about the country by infamous agents like Tetzel. They were shamelessly sold for small or large sums of money, according to the length of the period of the indulgence to be purchased; and it is not to be wondered at that a feeling of abhorrence and revulsion should have been stirred against the system calling itself Christian, that could countenance and profit by such abominable and wicked absurdities, issuing in the complete separation of numerous individuals and nationalities from the Church then presided over by the Bishop of Rome.
The Council of Trent treated of the subject in its last session, which was very hurried, and simply, while defending the doctrine, forbids the improper vending of indulgences.
The system still lives and flourishes greatly, which doubtless accounts for the enormous wealth at the disposal of the Church of Rome at the present day, and in a great measure for the large sums of money now being so lavishly expended on what is called “The Conversion of England”.
This, it is hoped, apparently, may be effected by the erection of handsome churches and large conventual establishments, colleges, and schools now rising so rapidly all over the land, designed, it must be supposed, to impress the thoughtless and unwary, and to lead them to conclude that Romanism must be a very excellent system, or it could not be so splendid, so vigorous, and so zealous.
Such a doctrine could scarcely have arisen if the Scripture had been read and studied and taught; and where this is so, it is seen at once that it has not the slightest support in the Word of God, and so cannot be maintained except by those who prefer the traditions of men to the Commandments of God.
The Article simply dismisses the matter by saying that such a doctrine cannot be taught without a proud assumption on man’s part of capabilities he does not possess, nor without an insulting disrespect for God; for those who hold it claim – forgetting their own inherent sinfulness and wickedness, and what God has said on the subject of man’s utter inability to win his own salvation – not only that man may win Heaven himself, but contribute something to the winning of it, by someone else; and also, contrary to Scripture, assert that it is possible for man to have arrived at that stage, when, having served God fully, there is no necessity laid upon him for serving Him longer, a position that God expressly forbids us to take up, in the words of Christ which say, “When ye have done all that are commanded you, say, ‘We are servants from whom no profits can be derived’.”
1. “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches: none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” Ps. 49:6, 7.
2. “And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out; but the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you.” Matt. 25:8, 9.
See also Luke 17:9, 10, quoted in the Article.
Questions on Article XIV.
1. Explain supererogation.
2. What are meant by works of supererogation?
3. Explain the Roman doctrine of Indulgences.
4. How did this lead to the Reformation?
5. Show the unscripturalness of the idea of supererogation.
Article XV – Of Christ alone without Sin.
“Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things (sin only excepted), from which He was clearly void, both in His flesh and in His spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who by sacrifice of Himself once made, should take away the sins of the world, and sin (as St. John saith) was not in Him. But all we, the rest (although baptized and born again in Christ), yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Remarks on the Article.
While this Article may be regarded as a refutation of the Socinian and Unitarian error that Christ was peccable – that is, capable of sinning – and also as condemning the error of those who bold that it is possible for Christians to arrive at such a state of perfection as to be without sin; yet its main object is to condemn the Roman doctrine of what is called the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
This doctrine was not formally decreed by the. Roman Church as necessary to salvation until the year 1854, when it was imposed on his Church as an article of faith by the then Bishop of Rome, Pius IX.
But though not formally decreed, it was a doctrine very widely held by certain sections of the Roman Church long before the sixteenth century; and it had come into great notoriety at the commencement of that century through some fraudulent proceedings of the Dominican monks, by which they sought to bring discredit on the Franciscans for holding the doctrine. For an account of these proceedings the reader is referred to D’Aubigne’s “History of the Reformation,” book 8, chapter 2, where a considerable amount of light is thrown on the disgraceful impostures practiced one upon another by these Monastic Orders.
The doctrine in question maintains that the Virgin herself was free from sin, and that she owed this freedom from the taint or spot of sin to the fact that she, like her Son, was miraculously conceived, and hence was enabled to transmit her spotless nature to Him.
The doctrine of course arose from an over-curious questioning as to how, if Mary were sinful, Christ, her Son, could be sinless. But the solution of the difficulty proposed by the doctrine, besides being unscriptural and untrue to facts – for does not Mary rejoice in God, her Saviour? – is not in the least satisfactory; for if Mary was conceived without sin, that Christ might be sinlessly conceived, then Mary’s mother must have been conceived without sin, and so on back to the first daughter of Eve!
It is to be feared that the doctrine first started to remove what seems a difficulty with reference to the sinlessness of Christ, owed the amount of support it received from the Bishop of Rome and his Church to a desire to glorify the Virgin, who, long before the Reformation, had been exalted to a position of queenly dignity in Heaven – a position even above that held by the Lord Jesus Himself. Such a doctrine, in the popular mind, would go far to support the extravagant claims made on her behalf by the Roman Priesthood, and help to promote a most lucrative superstition in connection with her services as Mediator and Queen of Heaven.
Bearing all this in mind, we can better understand the drift of the Article. Mariolatry, or the worship of Mary, is, and has been for centuries, one of the most characteristic and blasphemous fables of the Church of Rome; and one is not surprised to find our Reformers devoting one of the Articles to the condemnation of such a false doctrine as the Immaculate Conception, and to the vindication of the alone-sinlessness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells us, then, that Christ was no angelic being of a nature different to ours, and so incapable of sympathy, but was true Man, and was like us in every respect, with the exception that He had no sin in Him.
From this He was entirely free, not only in word and action, but also in thought and intention. If this had not been the case, He would not have been fitted for the work to which He was appointed. For it was, required of Him that He should exhibit a spotless fulfillment of the perfect law of God, a sinless obedience even unto death, inasmuch as He came as the Lamb whom God had provided to fulfill in His life and death all that was prefigured in the sacrifices of the spotless lambs that were offered during the Mosaic dispensation; and so, of course, as we are expressly told by the Evangelist John, no evil tendency whatever was found in Him. But everyone else – including all the baptized and regenerate without exception – is sinful and remains sinful, for in many things we all are faulty or offend as St. James saith. In fact there is no sinless perfection to be found in anyone, even in the most holy of us. Hence we have no merits to spare; no ability to redeem our brethren; no authority to mediate because of our righteousness between another sinner and God. And if we are so presumptuous as to think such things of ourselves, and at any time to say that we are living without sin, we are making a great mistake, and are not telling the truth; in a word we are liars.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following heads: –
1. Christ was made like unto us in all things excepting sin.
“We have net a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Heb. 4:15.
“Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him was no sin.” 1 John 3:5.
2. He offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice for sin.
“He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” 2 Cor. 5:2.
“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19.
3. The sinfulness of all others except Christ.
“There is not a just man upon earth who doeth good and sinneth not.” Eccles. 7:20.
“I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Rom. 7:18.
Questions on Article XV.
1. Against what three errors is this Article directed:
2. What is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?
3. When was it imposed on the Church of Rome?
4. Show the difficulty and absurdity of the doctrine.
5. Show the importance of the doctrine that Christ was “clearly void” from sin.
Article XVI – Of Sin after Baptism.
“Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned which say they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.”
Remarks on the Article.
It need not be supposed that our reformers intended by the use of the word “deadly” in this Article, and the Litany, as applied to sin, to emphasize the distinction between what the Church of Rome calls mortal and venial sins; for they would refuse to acknowledge that there was any distinction. They used the term to bring out the thought of the greater heinousness of some sins as compared with others.
They believed, with all Protestants, that all sin is deserving of death; nevertheless, that some sins committed in some states of mind, have a peculiar heinousness as being more directly against grace. Sins of presumption, sins against light, are manifestly most deeply injurious to the soul, and may be so even when they injure our neighbour little, or scarcely at all. And it is such sins as these, distinguished by the epithet “deadly” from the ordinary sins of infirmity, which are referred to in the present Article. In the compilation of this Article two classes of error, which were rife at the time of the Reformation, are clearly in view, and our Church herein distinctly pronounces against them.
There were some who held that if an adult made a profession of repentance and faith in Christ and was baptized, that he received necessarily forgiveness and the Holy Ghost; but that if after this he fell away into sinful courses and became a backslider, be had committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that there was no further hope for him; no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears; no further pardon to be received, but only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation – in fact, that he was lost for ever.
This error is met with the Scriptural assertion that even if a man does sin willingly and in a heinous way, after he has received the Holy Ghost, we need not necessarily conclude that he has sinned against the Holy Ghost, and is, therefore, in a state in which no further pardon is to be expected. Because after we have become temples of the Holy Ghost by faith in the Redeemer, such is our natural sinfulness that it is possible for us to leave the ways of God, to fail to guide ourselves by His grace, and take up with sinful courses; and so great is the mercy of God, that if we turn to Him, ask pardon and seek grace, it is quite possible for us to be restored, and to amend our lives. And, therefore, those are to be condemned, i.e., accounted utterly in the wrong and censured who say that such men even though they truly repent cannot hope for forgiveness.
On the other hand there were those who held that if a man made a profession of repentance and faith in the Redeemer, and was baptized, he received the Holy Ghost, and thus became incapable of falling into “deadly” or heinous sin. If he did sin in this way, they thought it was really not Sin for him; dwelling much on the text, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” They failed to understand that the words “doth not commit sin” in this passage may very well bear the meaning, “does not continue in the practice of sin,” and so convey a very different impression.
This error is met in the Article by the assertion that a man does not become incapable of sinning when be has received the Holy Ghost. It is possible for such a one to depart from grace given, i.e., to fail to guide his steps by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and to fall into gross sin; and therefore those who claim for the regenerate that he is in such a state that it is impossible for him to fall into grievous sin from the time of his reception of the Holy Ghost till the time of his death, are to be regarded as in error and worthy of condemnation.
As the sin against the Holy Ghost is named in the Article, it may be well to add a few words as to its nature. Such a sin is possible, as our Lord expressly says so. But the context in which He mentions it should be carefully taken into consideration.
On a reference to Matt. 12:22, we find that the Pharisees accused Him of being in league with the Devil in casting but devils. He then reasons with them, and warns them that such an accusation made in the light of their knowledge of His character and work came perilously near the sin against the Holy Ghost for which there was no pardon.
From which we conclude that the sin against the Holy Ghost is a malicious hard-hearted rejection of the claims of Christ, coupled with a blasphemous raillery which dares to impute His wonderful words and works to assistance lent Him by the Devil, and this in the face of the fullest evidence and clearest knowledge that He is the Son of God.
Many are terribly troubled as to this sin, and many furthest from it have thought they have committed it. But let all rest assured that such a sin is impossible to the true believer. By the everlasting covenant such are preserved for ever, for “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Where there is the least desire after God and forgiveness, there the sin has not been committed.
It is probable that those who have committed it are utterly callous, and indifferent, unconcerned and contented, with no fear of death or Hell before their eyes; and that they pass away into the other world, in this hardened and impenitent state, regardless of what is going to happen to them, “for there are no bands in their death.” They have provoked God to leave them, and they are given up to a reprobate mind, to choose their own ways, and thus to qualify themselves for associations referred to by our Lord, where He is represented as saying, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and His angels.” Matt. 25:41.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings: –
1. Those who fall into heinous sin after receiving the Holy Ghost may be forgiven.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to for- “ give us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” Gal, 6:1.
2. Those who have received the Holy Ghost are liable to fall into sin.
“David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die.” 2 Sam. 12:13.
“If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10.
Questions on Article XVI.
1. What is the meaning of “deadly sin”?
2. Against what two classes of error is this Article directed?
3. How is the first error met?
4. Explain “they are to be condemned” “doth not commit sin.”
5. How is the second error refuted?
6. What have you to say of the sin against the Holy Ghost?
7. How may we answer those who fear they have committed it?
Article XVII – Of Predestination and Election.
“Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid), He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by His Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
“As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God; so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
“Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; and, in our doings, that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.”
Remarks on the Article.
It will be noticed at a glance, that this Article may be easily divided into two parts. The first part, ending with the word “felicity,” is occupied with explaining what Predestination to Life means. The second contains a caution as to the proper use to be made of the doctrine.
In this paper the first part only, for the most part, will be considered; the second being reserved for our next Reading.
There are two main views current in Christendom, on this great but mysterious doctrine. From two of their most prominent supporters, viz., Calvin and Arminius, these views have been called Calvinistic and Arminian, respectively. Calvin, the French reformer, who passed his life at Geneva, was a contemporary of Luther. Arminius, a Dutchman, educated at Geneva, was a Professor of the University of Leyden, and died in the year 1609. They both held strongly the doctrine of election, i.e., that God from all eternity had chosen those whom He would save eternally by Christ, but the difference between them consisted in the view they took of God’s method in the matter of election.
Arminius held that God from all eternity determined to bestow salvation on those who He foresaw would persevere unto the end, in their faith in Christ Jesus; and to inflict everlasting punishments on those who should continue in their unbelief, and resist unto the end His divine succours.
Calvin held the absolute election to eternal Life of a certain limited number of individuals, and that this election to life is entirely irrespective of anything which God foresaw in them, and proceeds from the exercise of His will alone. He also taught the predestination to damnation of the residue of mankind.
But the greater part of those, commonly called Calvinists, do not hold the doctrine of reprobation, i.e., the doctrine that God predestinated certain from all eternity to damnation. They are content to say with Augustine that God simply leaves the impenitent to the inevitable consequences of their sins – a doctrine technically known as praeterition, “passing by”. The following passage from one of Augustine’s [“De Praedestinatione Sanctorum,” cap. xviii.] writings, illustrates his views on the subject – “ God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating us to the adoption of sons, not because we were going to be holy and spotless of ourselves, but He elected us in order that we might be such. He did this according to the good pleasure of His will, in order that no man might boast of his own will, but of the will of God towards him.” As was said above, Augustine did not understand by reprobation a decree or purpose of damnation, but a leaving of the ungodly to the just consequences of their sins.
It may be well to say here that “Calvinism,” as it is popularly and often reproachfully called, is not an invention of the man whose name it bears, but is a convenient name for the doctrine that emphatically asserts that salvation is all of grace from first to last, and that none of the elect will finally perish. Augustine held these views (410 Am.), Paul held these views, Christ held these views. They were buried under a heap of rubbish during the Middle Ages; land it is because Calvin brought them out distinctly in his teaching at the time of the Reformation that they have from his time onward been called Calvinistic.
The view taken by the Church of England, as set forth in this Article, may best be described as moderately Calvinistic. While it asserts unequivocally that God elects certain from all eternity in Christ unto eternal salvation, without any reserve as to the use they will make of His grace, it is altogether silent on the subject of reprobation; while it suggests strongly that there is salvation for all who will believe God’s promises, which are addressed, it says, to all mankind without any reserve.
Now let us see how the Article describes Election and the character of those predestinated to eternal life. It tells us that this foreordaining to life eternal is an unalterable determination on the part of God from all eternity based on considerations which we have no line to fathom, to set free from wrath and condemnation, which all the race incurred in Adam, those whom He has selected as Members of Christ out of the human race, and to carry them safely through all possible difficulties and dangers by means of Christ, as pottery molded by the Potter for the Palace of the King.
Having told us what Predestination of Life is, it next goes on to show how these chosen ones are brought out from among the rest of mankind, and the change that God works in them, when He leads them to the Saviour for salvation. As God has His set purpose to endue certain with such wonderful privileges, He in His own good time proceeds to draw them to Himself by His Holy Spirit. The Spirit convicts them of sin, and shows them Christ crucified for their sins. He then enables them to put their trust in Christ for salvation. They accept His teaching, and without anything of righteousness being demanded in payment on their side, they are accounted as acquitted from all imputation of guilt, and as perfectly righteous in God’s sight. By the same Spirit working in their hearts they become sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and are able to call upon Him as Father. They become, by the same Spirit working in them, like in character to God’s only-begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ. They carefully and scrupulously, by the agency of the same Spirit, become devoted to the will of God, and strive to carry it out in their daily lives, and at last owing to God’s kindness in connection with Christ, not to their own good works, are brought safe home to enjoy eternal happiness.
Scripture Proofs of This First Division of the Article.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings: –
1. God’s eternal purpose with reference to the Elect in Christ.
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Eph. 1:4.
“According to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Tim. 1:9.
2. The holiness of the Elect.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17.
“We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from Me, all ye that work iniquity.” Matt. 7:23.
3. The final perseverance of the Elect.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” John 10:27, 28.
“Whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Rom. 8:30.
Article XVII – Of Predestination and Election – (Continued).
“As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God. So, for curious and carnal persons lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
“Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”
Remarks on the Article.
It has been thought convenient to head this reading with the second part of the Article on Predestination, as it is with that part that this paper will for the most part be occupied.
Last time we saw what Predestination and Election meant, and the kind of people who may reasonably and confidently conclude that they are the Elect of God. We shall see this time for whom the doctrine is specially intended, and shall receive warning against the abuse of it.
First, then, we are told that it is for the comfort and support of the godly. In fact, the clearest statement of the doctrine we have given us in the Word of God – viz., in Rom. 8 – occurs in a connection where the comfort and support of believers is the main object of the writer. So that, to begin with, the statement of the Article as to the comfort intended by the doctrine for the godly has the direct support of the Word of God.
The announcement of the Article on this point is clear and distinct. It tells us that the proper and godly view – an improper and ungodly view may be and is often held – of the fact that God has chosen and fore-ordained them to eternal life in Christ is full of charming, soothing, and unutterable consolation to those who are really pious and good; to those persons who know that the Spirit of God is working in them, owing to the way in which they feel that He is keeping them back from evil, deceitful, and impure deeds, and subduing their sinful and evil inclinations; to those persons who feel Him inspiring them with lofty ideals of living, centering their minds on Christ and holiness and heaven.
To such persons as these, great comfort is to be extracted from the doctrine, because it not only, under such circumstances, makes them feel assured that they are in possession of eternal salvation, won for them by Christ, but also fills them with love to God for having undertaken, in spite of their many sins and shortcomings, to bring them to glory.
But, on the other hand, a wise and discriminating use of the doctrine must be made. If preachers are constantly dwelling on this subject in their discourses, delivered before mixed congregations of believers and unbelievers, godly and profane, there will never be lacking unregenerate persons, puffed up by their warped, biased, irreverent, unsubdued reasonings, who, led on by the Devil, will stumble terribly at the doctrine, and arrive at one of two conclusions. Looking within, and seeing no evidence of a work of grace, but God hated, evil loved, and the good not chosen, they will – concluding that they are not subjects of the electing love of God, and thinking that they must go to hell anyhow – either become filled with despair and utter hopelessness, or rush into an equally dangerous course of utter recklessness and licentious living, concluding that as it is fated for them to be punished everlastingly, they may as well take their fill of pleasure while they can.
The doctrine, therefore, may be – like many other things – one man’s meat and another man’s poison, and care must be taken by ministers as to where, when, and how it may be profitably stated.
Finally, a concluding caution is given, affecting both godly and ungodly. We are to take God’s promises, as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture, i.e., as set forth to the whole genus or class of mankind. Thus no one has a right to conclude that God has not elected him, and so to become either reckless or despairing, for “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And again, “God wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
On the other hand, the godly are not to presume on the electing love and mercy of God to live a careless, indifferent, unspiritual life, concluding that as God has elected them to everlasting life they are all right, and it does not matter how they live. We are to accept the warnings and commands of Scripture, as well as the promises, and are to guide our lives by both.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God” God forbid! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Is the Lord dealing unfairly with the human race by electing some, while some seem to be passed by? A thousand times No! In the first place, so sinful is everyone that it would be an utter impossibility for anyone to be kept safe from apostasy and self-destruction unto eternal life, even after regeneration – so sinful are we all at best – unless the Lord had determined by His immutable counsel that He would save them eternally, come what might. Christians would wreck themselves or fall overboard again and again, unless the Lord kept them safe in the Life-Boat, Christ Jesus. Is God unjust in His discriminating mercy? Nay. Why? Because nothing foreseen in any creature is the ground of His election. All are by nature equally vile and undeserving, and have no claim on God’s mercy. Again, while God of His own free love and mere mercy chooses whom He will, He does so without prejudice to the condition of the rest. He does not deprive them of their moral freedom. They are content to remain in their sins, and desire not the knowledge of His ways. Again, God does not pardon one penitent believer and not another, nor punish one impenitent sinner and not another, but deals with each and all according to their obedience, or disobedience, to His revealed will in Scripture. Election is simply an exhibition of wondrous love and mercy to the glory and praise of Almighty God.
Scripture Proofs of the Second Part of This Article.
We may arrange them conveniently under the following headings:–
1. The comfort of the doctrine to godly persons.
“Although my house be not so with God, yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation and all my desire.” 2 Sam. 23:5.
“Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts.” 2 Thess. 2:16.
2. The evil effect liable to be produced on the ungodly, through the temptation of the Devil.
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Is. 33:14.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Cor. 15:32.
3. The universality of God’s promises.
“Look unto me and be ye. saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.” Is. 14:22.
“Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” John 6: 37.
“Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom. 10:13.
Questions on Article XVII.
1. Into what two parts may this Article be divided?
2. What do you know about Calvin? Arminius?
3. Explain their different views on election.
4. What have you to say of “reprobation” “praeterition”?
5. Why is the doctrine of election styled “Calvinism”?
6. What are the characteristics of the elect?
7. For whom is the doctrine of election intended?
8. Show the dangers of the indiscriminate teaching of the doctrine.
9. Explain “generally set forth,” “wretchlessness of most unclean living.”
Article XVIII – Of obtaining Eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
“They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, ‘that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth,’ so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved.”
Remarks on the Article.
It is generally supposed that the word “also” in the first sentence of this Article is intended to refer back to an expression found at the end of Article XVI, where in similar language a condemnation of certain false teachers is pronounced. It would then mean that not only those before mentioned thinkers were to be condemned, but that also those about to be mentioned are to be anathematized, for so is the word in original Latin.
This is the one place in the Articles where the old mode of canonical condemnation of those who think differently is employed. In the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, the expression, or rather its equivalent, “anathema sit” (let him be accursed), is used to enforce every pronouncement as to doctrine or practice. The expression is exceedingly strong, for it means that those who do not agree with the doctrine announced in the Article are worthy to be devoted to eternal execration.
A sufficient excuse, however, may be found for its employment here when we realize that the honour and redeeming work of the Saviour are in question, and that the people who are thus devoted to eternal destruction are those who would ignore the Saviour’s claim and frustrate the grace of God, and are thus guilty of a crime which may be characterized as high treason against the Lord of Hosts.
The expression “anathema sit” so frequently found in the Canons of Councils is, doubtless, founded – whether with propriety or not is a matter of question – on St. Paul’s words in Gal. 1:9, “If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
It may be supposed, from the strong language employed, the Reformers, in framing this Article, bad chiefly in view the errors of the Church of Rome. That Church however she may for her own ends exalt Christ at certain times and in certain places as the only Saviour of sinners, practically coordinates with Him – nay, even pits above Him – her own system of doctrine and practice, and denies salvation to anyone not in communion with herself through her priests and ordinances. But it is not Rome alone, however, who is guilty in this matter. There are other communions besides the Roman which exhibit an uncomfortable tendency to put their Sect or Law before Christ; and while all who conform to their doctrines and practices, and in other things follow their own notions, or, as it is called in the Article – the light of Nature, are sure of salvation; others, who lean only on the Saviour and trust in Him without the addition of any performances of their own, are apt to be excluded by them from the pale of salvation.
The Article then may be understood as condemning, in the very strongest language possible, the very prevalent error and amongst all sects, whether Romanists or Protestants, which leads them to think that if only they belong to a certain order or sect, and conform to its laws and regulations, they are sure to be saved, while all others, to say the least, are in a very doubtful state as to their salvation.
This error – too prevalent at all times – is condemned thus strongly because practically it leaves the one Name by faith in which we are saved, out of the question, and so ranks with the sin of those who preach “another Gospel,” and of whom St. Paul did not hesitate to say, “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8, 9).
The emphatic statement of this Article condemning the subtle error found amongst all denominations, both Protestant and non-Protestant, which leads men to substitute The Church for Christ; together with its refreshingly clear and scriptural reiteration of the great doctrine, on which so much stress has been laid in the nine preceding Articles, that Christ alone is needful for our salvation, forms a fitting conclusion to Part III (Articles IX–XVIII), which on reference to our Second Reading, will be found spoken of as treating of the main doctrines of man’s salvation or redemption through Christ.
It is probable that our Reformers, in drawing up this Article, had no intention of dogmatizing on the state of the heathen, who have never heard of Christ. Their statements, here as elsewhere, refer to those who profess and call themselves Christians. With reference to the state of the heathen, we may conclude from the text referred to at the end of the Article (Acts 4:12) that those of them who are saved – however little they may know it here – will be found at last to owe their salvation, not to themselves, but Christ, who is the propitiation not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He who knows bow to apply Christ’s salvation to infants and idiots, knows also how to apply it to those who among the heathen, have according to His purpose, felt after Him, if haply they might find Him.
These may be arranged under the two following propositions : –
1. No man is saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Prov. 14:12.
“If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Gal. 3:21, 22.
2. Only by the Name of Jesus can any man be saved.
“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” Is. 45:22.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but my Me.” John 14:6.
Questions on Article XVIII.
1. To what does the word “also” refer?
2. Explain “accursed”. Why is it only used here?
3. How does the Church of Rome come under this condemnation?
4. How is the strong language of the Article justified by Scripture?
5. What bearing has this Article on the question of the salvation of the heathen?
Article XIX – Of the Church.
“The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
“As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have now arrived at Part IV, of the Articles, consisting of XIX to XXXIV, inclusive. It has to do with the Church, its Sacraments, and its ministers.
In the Article under consideration we get, as we might expect, a definition of the Visible Church. The Invisible Church has its special marks or characteristics, which have been already considered under Article XVII. In this Article we are concerned with the Church Visible only, and are told clearly what are its notes or characteristics from the standpoint of our Reformers: a standpoint which, in all honesty should be that of those who, like the Clergy by subscription to the Articles at their ordination, or confirmees by outward profession at their confirmation, have accepted the Articles as conditions of teaching.
A Visible Church then, according to the teaching of the Church of England, has three notes or characteristics.
1. It must be an assembly of men who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour.
2. The pure Word of God, as opposed to uninspired writings like the Apocrypha, and Tradition, must alone be proclaimed in her assemblies as the Rule of Faith and Practice.
3. The Sacraments, of which we learn from another Article, viz., XXV, that there are but two, that is to say, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, must be rightly (recte, i.e., without any admixture of false and unscriptural teaching) administered, according as Christ has ordained them, in all necessary and essential particulars.
In connection with these characteristics of the Church Visible, it is to be noticed with reference to (1) that by the expression, “assembly of faithful men,” a Church Visible does not consist of Clergy only, but of the lay people as well: an idea which had become very much obscured long before Reformation times, by the Church of Rome, which has always had a great tendency to speak of ecclesiastics only as the Church.
With reference to (2) which tells us that the pure r Word of God is to be preached, we have an evident allusion to the error of the Roman Church, which coordinates with Scripture the Apocrypha and Tradition, and bases her faith and practice on all three. That is evidently no true Visible Church where such a thing is permitted.
With reference to (3) we have an evident allusion to all those doctrinal and ceremonial accretions which by Reformation times had gathered round the two Sacraments ordained by Christ in His Gospel. He ordained two only. He gave us the words of administration. He gave the Cup to all. He bade us use water in Baptism, and bread and wine in the Supper. Where these things are in their simplicity we have a due administration and a true note of a Visible Church. Where more than these things are demanded as essential and necessary and without which the validity of the Sacrament is denied, there one of the notes of a true Visible Church is wanting.
With reference to the Notes generally, it may be remarked that the Church of England does not regard Episcopacy as necessary to a true Visible Church. In fact, she insists on no one form of government as essential, and thus does not attempt to unchurch other Denominations because they are not governed, as she is, by Bishops. If they uphold faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice; the due administration of the Sacraments in all essential particulars, they are Visible Churches in her tolerant view.
After stating the essential characteristics of a Visible Church, the Article goes on to tell us that as the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.
This paragraph may be considered as our Church’s apology – among other things – for having broken with the Churches of both East and West.
She could not conscientiously unite with either, as in her view they have forfeited the right to be regarded as true Visible Churches. It is true that she gives each of them the title of Church. It would be difficult to specify them under any other name. But the reality implied by the name she certainly withholds, that is if we take into consideration the foregoing definition of a Visible Church; for having defined particularly what a Visible Church is, she goes on to tell us that these Churches which she names have all erred, not only with reference to ceremonies and the manner in which those composing them have lived, but also in matters of faith. Hence we conclude that in her view they are no true Visible Churches.
In olden times Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch were what were called the great patriarchates of the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire, and the three may be taken to mean what was meant at the Reformation by the Eastern Churches or what we mean by the Greek Church. The Church of Rome, which long before the Reformation had obtained supremacy over all the Western Churches, may be taken as a synonym for the Western Church. Hence we see that both East and West are boldly declared to be in error; an authoritative statement on the part of our Church which should open our eyes to the fact that a union with either of them on the part of the English Church is an utter impossibility while they remain what they are, and unless they first come by a process of reformation up to the standard of a true Visible Church as defined in the Article.
In the face of such a plain statement as we find in this Article as to the errors of both the Greek and Roman Churches, it is very extraordinary that we should hear the assertion openly made by those who must have read the Article, that there is no impediment to reunion with Rome on the part of the English Church, as there is no real difference between them! It is to be feared that if Reunion does take place without a Reformation of their errors on the part of the Greek and Roman Churches, it will be a Reunion most offensive and provoking to the great Lord of the Church; in fact, nothing less than a Reunion in Apostasy, which must bring down judgments on our guilty heads.
As the errors of the Church of Rome as to ceremonies and matters of faith are specially referred to in this Article, it may be well to enumerate the principle of them.
I. As to Ceremonies. (1) The Propitiatory Sacrifice of the Mass; (2) The Adoration of the Host (Hostia-Victim); (3) Communion in one kind only; (4) Auricular Confession and Absolution; (5) Praying for the Dead; (6) Mariolatry and the invocation of Saints and Angels; (7) Veneration of Relics; (8) Worship of Images; (9) Celibacy of the Clergy; (10) The Addition of Five Sacraments.
II. As to Matters of Faith. (1) Their doctrine of Original Sin (see Reading on Art. IX); (2) The Confusion of Sanctification with Justification; (3) The Apocrypha and unwritten Tradition as part of the Rule of Faith; (4) The Merit of Human Works; (5) Purgatory; (6) Indulgences or Pardons; (7) The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; (8) The claim of Supremacy and Infallibility; (9) Transubstantiation.
When all these things are purged out of the Roman Church, it will be time to think of Reunion, but not till then.
We may arrange these conveniently under two headings:–-
1. Scriptural intimations concerning visible Churches.
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them.” Matt. 28:19.
“This do in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19.
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph. 4:5.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11.
“Preach the Word.” 2 Tim. 4:2.
Compare also Acts 2:41–47, 8:12; Eph. 4:11, 12; 1 Tim. 3:15.
2. The possibility of error on the part of Churches.
“There shall be false teachers among you who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.” 2 Peter 2:1.
“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers having itching ears: and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned into fables.” 2 Tim. 4:3, 4.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a red hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth.” 1 Tim. 4:1, 3.
Compare also 2 Thess. 2:3, 4; Rom. 11:21, 22.
Questions on Article XIX.
1. What are the three marks of a true Church?
2. Of what does the Visible Church consist?
3. Why is the pure Word emphatically mentioned?
4. Explain “duly” administered.
5. How does this Article show the breadth and tolerance of the Church of England?
6. Show that, according to this Article, neither the Greek or Roman Communion have any right to be called Churches.
7. Enumerate the Errors of Rome.
(a) As to Ceremonies.
(b) As to matters of faith.
Article XX – Of the Authority of the Church.
“The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of Faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of Salvation.”
Remarks on the Article.
In the preceding Article we have been told what a Visible Church is; in this we are told what it can, and what it cannot do.
The Church spoken of is no doubt the Reformed Church of England, as opposed to the corrupt churches of the East and West from which she severed herself, when, in the middle of the sixteenth century, 1549–1552, she assumed the responsibility of drawing up a Liturgy and Articles of her own.
In fact, this Article may be viewed as our Church’s justification for such a proceeding, an answer to those who, like the Church of Rome, denied that she had any right to do what she did, viz., to undertake her own Reformation. But while, no doubt, the Article mainly refers to the Church of England, and supports the right of National Churches to make independent arrangements as regards Rites and Ceremonies; yet the definition of a Church Visible as given in Article XIX, is so wide and general that one may conclude that while the Church of England assumes to herself these powers as to Rites and Ceremonies, she would not exclude from similar privileges all other denominations who come up to her idea of a Church Visible as defined in the preceding Article, i.e., all congregations of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
The Church of England, then, claims the power under this Article to ordain for the use of her members certain rites or solemn ordinances and to give directions as to the manner in which these ordinances shall be performed; and also to give an authoritative opinion for the benefit and loyal observance of all who rank themselves under her banner on the great doctrines of the Faith as contained in the Scriptures.
In accordance with this claim, she issued a Manual, which we call the Book of Common Prayer, setting forth various rites or solemn ordinances, or services as they are generally called, with rubrics or directions as to the ceremonies or methods of administration with which those ordinances are to be accompanied. And to show that she has authority on controversies of Faith, she has added to that Book of Common Prayer the Thirty-nine Articles, in which she claims to speak authoritatively on disputed points of doctrine, or controversies of Faith, imposing them as a condition of teaching on all ministers who have received her orders.
But while this right is claimed for every Church, the Article is careful to add, in manifest opposition to Rome, that it is unlawful for any Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. In other words, no Church may take upon itself to enforce Rites and Ceremonies upon its members, which go against the teaching of the Canonical Books (see Art. VI), nor may it found its doctrines contained in such documents, Confessions, Articles, Canons, and Catechisms, on isolated passages of Scripture taken apart from their context, in such a way that Scripture is made to contradict itself; but before a doctrine is laid down, it must be proved to be in accordance with Scripture as a whole. We have here an evident allusion to such a doctrine as Transubstantiation, founded on such a text as “This is My Body,” and many other false doctrines maintained by that and other Churches on the same principle, viz.: – that of isolating the words of Scripture from their context, and the rest of the Word of God.
And in the same spirit of absolute loyalty to the Scriptures the Article goes on to say that as the Church’s work is to testify as to what is Scripture, and to preserve it intact in every way, so for the same reason that the Church may not order anything that is contrary to the Scriptures, it is equally unlawful for her to enforce anything on the consciences of her members as essential to salvation in addition to what is found in those Scriptures.
The position taken up is evidently this. The Canonical Scriptures are the Word of God. Each Church is bound to testify to the fact by keeping them distinct from all other books, and to allow nothing else on a level with them as a rule of faith or practice. As she cannot sanction any Rites, Ceremonies, or Doctrines which are contrary to that Word, so in the same spirit of jealousy for the Word of God, she may not demand from any one a belief in anything as essential to salvation which goes beyond what the Scriptures teach.
Here again we see a principle which cuts at the root of many of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, which, when tried by such a test, are found to rest on no authority but that of uncertain tradition, and therefore come under the condemnation of the Lord when He says, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
The Word of God written, and nothing but the written Word of God, is that which, according to the teaching of the English Church, should limit and condition the Rites, Ceremonies, and Doctrines which any Church may propose for observance by its members.
These may be arranged under the following headings:–
1. The Authority of the Church.
The Feast of Purim was instituted by the Jewish Church to commemorate their deliverance from the plot of Haman. Est. 9:20, 28, 31.
The Feast of the Dedication also, to commemorate the restoration and purification of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus, referred to in the New Testament in the words, “And it was at Jerusalem, the Feast of the Dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple,” etc. John 10:22, 23.
Again, in the Circumcision controversy in the early days of Christianity, we read, “There arose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying that it was necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the Apostles and Elders came together for to consider of this matter.” Acts 15:5, 6.
2. The Church is a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.
“Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.” Deut, 4:2.
“What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way, chiefly that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Rom. 3:1, 2.
3. Conditions and limitations of the Church’s authority.
“Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own traditions ... making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition which ye have delivered.” Mark 7:9, 13.
“We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” 2 Cor. 13:8.
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” 1 Peter 4:11.
Questions on Article XX.
1. What does the “Church” here signify?
2. What power does she claim for herself and others?
3. How has she shown her rights (a) “to decree Rites and Ceremonies,” and (b) “her authority in controversies of faith”?
4. How is this authority limited?
5. Explain and illustrate “Neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another.”
6. Show how this Article maintains the spirit of Protestantism.
Article XXI – Of the Authority of General Councils.
“General Councils may not be gathered together without the Commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men (whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God), they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to Salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.”
Remarks on the Article.
The Council of Trent, which had been called together by the Pope (see Reading I), was sitting at the time when this Article was drawn up, and it is specially intended to combat the idea that the Bishop of Rome has any right to summon a General Council.
During the early ages of the Church, ever since the time of Constantine, who summoned the first General Council, the Emperor always took the initiative (readily accorded him by the heads of the various Churches) in gathering Councils together, and no one dreamed of disputing his right to do so.
But after the eighth century the Bishops of Rome, founding their claim to do so on forged documents, which represent them as Over-Lords of all Civil Authority, gradually assumed this right to themselves, and summoned what they were pleased to call OEcumenical or Universal Councils at will.
The Eastern Church has always protested against this right assumed by the Bishops of Rome, and when the last so-called General Council was summoned by Pius IX in 1870 to meet at the Vatican, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who was invited to the Council, refused to attend, and in his answer practically annuls all the preceding Councils called by the Pope of Rome, acknowledging as genuine only those which were gathered together with the Commandment and will of Princes. These he regards as seven in number only, the last one being the Second Council of Nicaea, held in the year 787 A.D., which sanctions the worship of images.
The Roman Church, however, on the theory that the Pope is the head of all States, and has therefore this power inherent in himself, acknowledges some twenty. But as the word OEcumenical or Universal, which is applied to these Councils, implies that the Church, as a whole, is represented, and, as at most of them, there have been no representatives of the Eastern Church, it is difficult to see how in any sense they can be called General.
But when all this has been said, it must not be thought that we, as a Church, are committed to all the decisions of the first seven General Councils which were called together by the Commandment and will of Princes; for the article is careful to add, that when they are gathered together, they may make great mistakes, not only as to matters of practice, but also of doctrine – the reason being that those who compose them are not all Christians in the true sense of the word; they have not the Holy Spirit in them to guide them, nor do they acknowledge the paramount authority of the Word of God.
This being the case, the Church of England, as we might expect, holds herself free to reject any decision of any General Council, unless it can be shown to be conformable to the Word of God.
It is sometimes said – but entirely without foundation – that the Church of England receives as authoritative the decisions and Canons of the first four General Councils. No statement to this effect can be found in her formularies, and therefore we must take this Article as the expression of her opinion on, the subject.
As, however, the first four General Councils are generally considered to be the most Scriptural in their decisions, it may be well to give a short account of them here.
The first was held at Nicaea or Nike, a town in Bithynia, Asia Minor, not far from Constantinople, in the year 325 A.D. It was summoned by the Emperor Constantine, and its object was to defend the Church against the false doctrine of Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who denied that Christ was God and of one essence or being with the Father. This was done (mainly through the exertions of Athanasius, a young minister of Alexandria, afterwards its famous Archbishop) by the insertion of the word “homoousios” in the Creed, which is translated “of one substance with.” But a much better rendering would be “of one being with.”
The second was held at Constantinople, in the year 381 A.D., and was summoned by the Emperor Theodosius the Great. Its object was to condemn the heresy of Macedonius, Patriarch or Archbishop of Constantinople (Circ. 341), who denied that the holy Ghost was a Divine Person. This was done by the insertion of the words in the Creed which follow the clause, “I believe in the Holy Ghost” – viz., “The Lord and Giver-of-life, who proceedeth from the Father” (“and the Son” are not found in the Creed until they appear in a copy read at the Provincial Council of Toledo, in Spain, 589 A.D.), “who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets.”
The third was held at Ephesus, at that time an important city on the west coast of Asia Minor, in the year 431 A.D. It was summoned by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger. Its object was to condemn the heresy started by Apollinarius, a presbyter of Laodicea, in Syria (Circ. 351), who denied that Christ’s human nature had a reasonable soul. It also condemned the heresy of Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople (428), who held and taught the doctrine of two persons as well as two natures in Christ, a Divine and human Person. The Council was content with pronouncing an emphatic condemnation of these heresies, but no addition was made to the Creed.
The fourth General Council was held at Chalcedon, a town in Bithynia, opposite Constantinople, in the year 451 A.D. It was summoned by the Emperor Martian, and its object was to condemn the heresy of Eutyches, a monk of Constantinople (430), who taught that Christ had only one nature – the Divine. No addition was made to the Creed by the Council, but the truth concerning the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ was embodied in what has since been known as the Formula of Chalcedon, and which may be thus rendered: “One Person with two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.”
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings: –
1. The assembly of General Councils should have the authority of Princes.
King Hezekiah gathered the Priests and Levites, and exhorted them to cleanse the house of the Lord, and to restore the true service of God. 2 Chron. 29.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the King as supreme.” 1 Peter 2:13.
2. General Councils have erred in things pertaining to God.
“Then assembled together the Chief Priests and the Scribes, and the Elders of the people unto the palace of the High Priest, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill Him.” Matt. 26:3, 4.
3. We may not receive their decrees unless they are supported by Holy Scripture.
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Is. 8:20.
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the Council. Then Peter and the other Apostles answered: and said, We ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts 5:27, 29.
Questions on Article XXI.
1. Why was this Article drawn up?
2. Why have the Councils convened by the Pope no right to be called general?
3. Give the dates and places of meeting of the first General Councils.
4. Who convened the first, and what was its object?
5. What do we owe to the second Council?
6. Who were Apollinarius and Nestorius? and what errors did they teach?
7. Who was Eutyches? What was the Formula of Chalcedon?
8. How does our Church limit the authority of General Councils?
Article XXII – Of Purgatory.
“The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping, and adoration, as well of images as of reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”
Remarks on the Article.
As a specimen of the unfair way in which nowadays the Formularies of our Protestant Church of England are explained away, and are made to mean exactly the opposite of what they were intended to set forth, it is to be noticed that the Ritualists, quoting as their authority Newman’s infamous and dishonest Tract XC – the object of which was to encourage the explanation of the Articles in a Romish sense – are not ashamed to argue that, while the Article condemns distinctively Romish doctrines concerning Purgatory, pardons, etc., it does not forbid us to accept doctrines on these subjects which are not distinctively Romish. But surely to any fair-minded and unprejudiced person examining the Articles and Liturgy of our Church, and taking into consideration the known opinions of those who drew them up, it must be abundantly evident that not only particular doctrines concerning these things are altogether repudiated, but the things themselves in any shape or form whether Romish, Greek, or Pagan. For, while from pre-Reformation Service Books used in England the doctrines here condemned can be clearly and distinctly gathered, not a trace of them is to be found in our Prayer Book; which may be looked upon as a conclusive proof that our Reformers in this Article did not condemn any particular form of these errors, but the errors themselves; and that if they used the term Romish they simply meant to brand the errors of the pre-Reformation Church as unscriptural; for by the Council of Florence (1439), at which Delegates from the Eastern Church were present, and the Canons of which have never yet been repealed, the whole Church East and West was united under the Bishop of Rome as Head!
Those who can stoop to support the system they uphold by argument so manifestly unfair and dishonest, must not be surprised to find both themselves and their system regarded with suspicion and abhorrence by all lovers of truth and fair-dealing.
We notice here, as everywhere in the Articles, the paramount authority of the Word of God. It is the one final Court of Appeal. Our Church has only one thing to say of the doctrines in question. They are not to be maintained, for they are simply man’s inventions grounded on no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
In order that we may understand this repugnance the more clearly, it may be well briefly to explain what the errors in question are.
First, then, what is Purgatory?
Purgatory may be described as an imaginary torture chamber where the souls of believers, by the agency of fire chiefly, have to suffer the remainder of the temporal punishment due to their sins, which they have not been able to pay off while on earth by fastings, self-inflicted tortures, alms, prayers, pilgrimages, etc. The idea is that while the eternal punishment of the sins of believers has been cancelled by the death of Christ, yet there still remains a temporal punishment due to sin which the believer must endure here, and after death in Purgatory.
According to Romish teaching all believers, with very few exceptions, can only go to Heaven by way of Purgatory, in which place they may possibly have to stay myriads of years. This notion of Purgatory after death was first broached by Origen A.D. 230; affirmed by Pope Gregory I, 590; maintained by the Council of Florence, 1439; and established by the Council of Trent, 1563.
Next, what are Pardons or Indulgences? Granted that the temporal punishment due to sin must be endured by the believer either in this world by Prayers, Fastings, Alms, Pilgrimages, Offerings of Money for Church Buildings, etc., or by Purgatorial fire hereafter, another idea was broached, namely, that the penitent might be let off some of the temporal punishments due to sin, owing to the superfluous merits of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints, procurable for a money consideration. And so arose the invention, to be credited chiefly to the fertile imagination of Thomas Aquinas (1274), that there exists a Treasury, of which the Pope has the key, containing the superfluous merits of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints, and that these merits may be drawn upon by those standing in need of them. Those purchasing them are let off so many days of self-punishment for sin, [There is a Church Tower in Rouen, called the Butter Tower, which was built from money obtained from Indulgences to eat butter in Lent.] or so many years in Purgatory – the remission proportioned, of course, to the amount paid. It was the wicked and blasphemous sale of these Indulgences or Pardons, instituted by the Pope for the building of St. Peter’s at Rome, and carried on by the infamous Tetzel in Germany, which, while it brought so much gain to the Pope, caused so much scandal and offence, that it became the immediate cause of the Reformation.
It may here be added that Indulgences for souls in Purgatory may also be bought for them by their friends, who for so much money may obtain the benefit of so many Masses, which are supposed by their merit to shorten time there for those for whom they are said. Pope Calixtus II, A.D. 1124, Eugenius III, 1153; Clement II, 1191; Thomas Aquinas, 1274, gradually made the sale of Indulgences an institution of the Church. Boniface VIII proclaimed the first Jubilee of Indulgences A.D. 1300.
Let it be remembered that these are not merely ancient superstitions, now obsolete and swept away, but that the Church of Rome still upholds them; and requires all her children to believe in them. As to Purgatory the Council of Trent says – and let it be noted that the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent are as binding on all Romanists as the Articles of Religion are on Members of the Church of England – “Since the Catholic Church instructed by the Holy Spirit out of the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, hath taught in Holy Councils, and lastly in this OEcumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls detained there are aided by the suffrages of the faithful, but most of all by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; this Holy Synod enjoins all bishops diligently to endeavour that the wholesome doctrine of Purgatory handed down by Holy Fathers and Sacred Councils be believed by Christ’s faithful, held, taught, and everywhere preached.”
Again, on the subject of Indulgence hear the same Council: “Since the power of conferring Indulgences hath been granted by Christ to the Church, and since even from the most ancient time the Church hath used a power of this kind, divinely delivered to her, the Holy Synod teaches and enjoins that the use of Indulgences most salutary to Christian people, and approved by the authority of Sacred Councils, shall be retained in the Church; and it anathematizes those who either assert that they are useless or deny that the Church hath power of granting them.”
Surely it may be said of the Roman Synagogue, as it was said by our Lord of the Jewish; “in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the Commandments of men”; and again, “Full well ye reject the Commandments of God that ye may keep your own tradition.”
Article XXII – (Continued).
Next, what is “worshiping and adoration, as well of images as of religion?” This practice, like most of the errors of the Greek and Roman Churches, has a pagan origin. When Christianity became fashionable at the commencement of the fourth century of our era, under the smile of Constantine, the first Roman Emperor who openly countenanced it, it soon became little better than a baptized heathenism. Crowds gave in their adhesion to Christ while remaining Pagan in faith and practice, and forced upon a too-willing hierarchy the practical adoption of their Gods many, and Lords many, together with the rites and ceremonies to which they had been accustomed while votaries of their much-loved Polytheism, with its priests, altars, sacrifices, incense, and gorgeous unspiritual worship.
Amongst these paraphernalia of heathen worship came the worship of pictures and images. Their introduction was defended on the plea that they were helpful to devotion, and aided the worshipper to reflect on the virtues of the saint thus represented. But they soon came to be regarded with superstitious reverence, and though it has been denied over and over again, adoration and worship was given them, and idolatry, that sin so deeply hated, and so sternly denounced by God in his Word, was set up in the Christian Church.
Gregory the First, Bishop of Rome, A.D. 590, the Pope who sent Augustine to convert England, A.D. 397, first, authorized images in churches – though long ere this set up in them. The salutation of images was sanctioned by the second Council of Nice, A.D. 787; while Veneration of them was decreed by the Council of Trent, A.D. 1563.
The Greek Church prides itself on the fact that it does not countenance the worshipping of images. But on looking into the matter, it is difficult to see anything more than a distinction without a difference, for while the members of that Church profess to be scandalized at the idea of such worship, they are most abject adorers of what are called sacred Icons. These are bas-reliefs framed like pictures which, because they are not actual images, they say they may worship without breaking the commandment. It is a well-known fact that they do bow down to them and worship them, and regard them with such reverence that the possession of a famous icon is a source of great wealth to the Church to which it belongs, as it is supposed to be endued with healing powers and is taken about in a carriage to the bedside of its poor deluded votaries, who are credulous enough to believe that it will work a miracle of healing on their behalf. This practice is very common in Russia at the present day.
The Veneration of Reliques dates also from the 4th century, and is likewise pagan in its origin. The idea gained ground – it is found in all heathen systems, also in Mohammedanism – that anything belonging to the dead saint in some way or other partook of his holiness, and would be a blessing to its possessor. Thus garments, bones, hairs, wood of the true cross, blood of martyrs, and things too various and too absurd to mention, all came to be regarded as sacred, and endued with a wonder-working power. No church was thought to be thoroughly furnished unless it had its collection of relics to be displayed for the adoration, protection and deception of the faithful, until at last the sum and substance of religion consisted in bowing down to images and trusting to relics, just as the Pagan, the Buddhist, and the Mohammedan trust to their charms and fetishes.
The Veneration of relics, to a great extent the sum and substance of Mediaeval Christianity, was, as a matter of course, established by the Council of Trent. The decree on the subjects in hand is as follows: “Let them also diligently teach the faithful, that the holy bodies of the holy martyrs, and of others living with Christ, which were living members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Ghost, and are by Him to be raised to eternal life and glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, for through them many benefits are bestowed upon men by God. So that they are to be altogether condemned, as the Church has long ago condemned, and now condemns them, who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of saints, so that these and other sacred monuments are unprofitably honoured by the faithful, or that the memorials of the saints are in vain frequented in order to obtain their aid.”
Next, lastly, what is the invocation of Saints.
This is yet another Pagan practice which began to be introduced – like all other Roman errors – in the fourth century. It is based on the belief that departed saints pray to God for us, that they watch over us, and can hear us when we call upon them, and when appealed to, will intercede for us to God.
This kind of thing exists in all heathen systems, as also in Mohammedanism, and found its way into the Church from the old Greek and Roman Mythology.
Demigods, heroes or deified men were the chief objects of worship in these systems, and were appealed to for aid in all kinds of trouble. Their place was taken in the Christian Church by the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the Martyrs of the first three centuries, and as the ages rolled on, their numbers were so increased, that instead of the one God, and the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, with the Holy Spirit three Persons in one God, being regarded as the sole object of worship according to the Scriptures, a return was made to the Gods many and Lords many of the old Polytheism; and Heathenism once more reigned supreme in the Christian Church.
But to none of the saints has such blasphemous and idolatrous worship been accorded as to the Virgin Mary. She is regarded as divine, and the worship due to God only is paid to her. In fact, both in the Greek and Roman Churches she has taken the place of the Saviour, a fact of which the usual image representing her as a woman with the Infant Christ in her arms is most painfully significant.
The invocation of saints was condemned when first broached at the Council of Laodicea, A.D. 372. It was introduced into the public Litanies of the Church by Pope Boniface V, A.D. 617.
It was first sanctioned by the Council of Florence, 1439, and formally established at Trent, 1563.
The decree on the subject runs as follows:–
“The saints who reign with Christ offer their prayers to God for men; it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to flee to their prayers, help, and assistance, because of the benefits to be obtained from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who is our only Redeemer and Saviour. Those are of impious opinions who deny that the saints, enjoying eternal felicity in heaven, are to be invoked, or who affirm that they do not pray for men; or that to invoke them to pray for us individually is idolatry; or that it is contrary to the Word of God, and opposed to the honour of Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and men; or that it is folly to supplicate verbally or mentally those who reign in heaven.”
1. Testimony of Scripture against Purgatory:
“Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 33:43.
2. The unscripturalness of Pardons.
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.” Dan. 9:9.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
3. Testimony of Scripture against the Worshipping and Adoration of Images and Relics.
“Ye shall make you no idols nor graven images; neither rear you up a standing image; neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 26:1. (See also 2 Kings 18:4.)
“God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24.
4. The invocation of saints is repugnant to the Word of God.
“Oh Thou that hearest prayer, to Thee shall all flesh come.” Ps. 65:2.
“And I fell at His feet to worship Him. And He said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God.” Rev. 19:10. (See also Col. 2:18.)
Questions on Article XXII.
1. What is the doctrine of Purgatory, by whom was it first taught, and when was it finally established?
2. Refute the modern theory that the Church of England only rejects the Romish, doctrine of Purgatory.
3. What are Pardons or Indulgences? and why instituted by the Church of Rome?
4. What is the origin of image and relic worship?
5. Who first authorized image worship?
6. What does the Council of Trent say of the Veneration of relics?
7. When was the invocation of Saints introduced? Show its pagan origin.
8. On what ground does our Church condemn all these errors?
Article XXIII – Of Ministering in the Congregation.
“It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.”
Remarks on the Article.
The main object of this Article seems to be the prevention of irregular ministrations of unauthorized persons in Churches set apart for the public worship of the congregation. One can easily see how, if these were allowed, many evil consequences might result, and confusion take the place of decency and order.
The Article, as one might expect it would, takes a very common sense view of the subject in question. It imposes on the Ministers of Churches restrictions neither more nor fewer than are imposed on members of the other professions. We do not allow barristers to practice who have not been duly called to the Bar by the proper authorities. Solicitors and doctors are subject to similar restrictions. In fact, public servants of all descriptions are always set apart for their several offices by those that have authority thereto; and no one in such matters would admit that any other course was possible.
Now regular Ministers of all denominations – for the Article is careful not to exclude those who have not received Episcopal Ordination – are public servants, and before being permitted to exercise their public functions must be publicly recognized, and set apart for the same; where this is not done, all must be uncertainty and confusion.
But when all this has been said, we must be careful to remember that the Article has in view only the regular ministry in the various Churches. A solicitor may not practice publicly without official recognition; neither may a medical man set up as a doctor without a proper diploma. But this does not prevent a man giving advice in his private capacity in matters connected with law and medicine. This distinction must be kept in mind in reading this Article. While it refuses to allow anyone who has not been regularly set apart for the ministry to officiate in the public worship of the congregation, i.e., to do the work of a regularly ordained minister, it does not necessarily exclude Christian men or women from carrying on spiritual work in house to house visitation, school, or mission room, or forbid men, at least, who are not regular ministers, with the sanction, of course, of the regular minister from reading prayers, or the lessons, or even occasionally preaching in the Church. What it does say is this, viz., that it is not allowable for anyone – and, of course, the Article has special reference to the regulations to be observed in the Establishment – to assume to himself the office and duties of a clergyman, unless he has been first called and sent to do them by legitimate authority. Before he can do this he must go through the ceremony of ordination or setting apart for the ministry; he cannot officiate as a minister in a church until he has done so.
And then, as an explanation of what lawfully called and sent means, it goes on to tell us that we ought to consider those lawfully called and sent who have been picked out and set apart for the work by men who, by the arrangements of the Church in question, are publicly acknowledged as having their delegated power to call out and appoint special labourers for the Lord’s vineyard.
We notice here the temperate way in which our Church gives her opinion on a much vexed question. While of course she requires that her own Ministers must be ordained by Bishops – for that is the form of setting apart to the ministry she has adopted in her Ordinal – she does not impose ordination by a Bishop as a sine qua non of the validity of orders. She evidently acknowledges the right of various denominations to ordination in the way in which they think best; all she insists upon is this, that no man may exercise the office of the ministry without public recognition and setting apart by those who, by the congregation or church in question, have public authority given them to do this work.
As to the recognition by the Church of England of orders other than her own being sufficient to allow those who hold them to officiate as Ministers without reordination on their entering the Church of England, it may be mentioned that previous to 1663, by an Act of Parliament passed in 1571 – which Act makes subscription to the Articles compulsory for the Clergy – men ordained otherwise than by the form of the English Church, were permitted to hold Benefices in England on condition of their duly subscribing the Articles of Religion, and reading them during Morning Service in their own church.
Bishop Cosin, writing in 1650, says: “Therefore, if at any time a Minister so ordained in these French Churches came to incorporate himself in ours, and to receive a public charge or cure of souls among us in the Church of England (as I have known some of them to have done of late, and can instance in many others before my time) our Bishops did not re-ordain him to his charge as they must have done if his former ordination here in France had been void. Nor did our laws require more of him than to declare his public consent to the religion received amongst us and to subscribe the Articles established.”
However, by the Act of Uniformity of 1662, following on the Savoy Conference of 1661, it, for the first time, was required that episcopal ordination should be an absolute requisite for ministering in our Church, and at the same time a clause was added in the preface to the Ordination Service denying the character of, a Minister of the Church of England to anyone not episcopally ordained. The practice observed since by some Bishops in the Church of England and the Church of Ireland has been to re-ordain any Minister of any other denomination who seeks their orders unless he has previously received Protestant episcopal ordination.
While, however, the Church of England will have her Ministers ordained in her own way, she is careful, as this Article strongly implies, not to condemn the validity of the orders of other denominations.
“Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost, and six others, whom they set before the Apostles; and when they had prayed they laid their hands on them.” Acts 6:3, 5, 6.
“When they had ordained them elders in every Church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them unto the Lord, on whom they believed.” Acts 14:2, 3.
“Neglect mot the gift that is in thee which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” 1 Tim. 4:14.
Questions on Article XXIII.
1. Show the reasonableness of the provision of this Article.
2. Show that its limitations are neither “intolerant” or “narrow”.
3. What were the regulations prior to the Act of Uniformity?
Article XXIV – Of speaking the congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth.
“It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the primitive Church, to have publick prayer in the Church or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.”
Remarks on the Article.
The practice against which this Article is directed is evidently that of the Church of Rome, almost all of whose services have been, from early times, and are now, conducted in Latin, wherever those services are held throughout the world. –
At the time when the various Liturgies or Service Books were drawn up, in use throughout the Western half of the Roman Empire, the language of that part of the world universally used and understood was Latin, and with that deeply rooted conservatism so characteristic of all religious systems, especially those of which the hierarchical or priestly element forms a conspicuous part, when once in Latin, they become stereotyped in Latin, until, in process of time, it was regarded almost as sacrilege to attempt to translate them into any other tongue.
By the end of the fifth century or thereabouts, all the provinces composing the Western Empire – such as Italy, Spain, Gaul, Britain – had their Service Books more or less in conformity with that used at Rome.
In these countries, through the domineering influence of Imperial Rome, Latin displaced the language of the natives and became the medium of communication more or less understood of all, and one can easily see how it came to be adopted as the language most suited to be used in the public Liturgies, and how it was that Jerome’s “Vulgate,” published at the beginning of the fifth century, became the Bible of the Western World.
But in process of time, through various disintegrating causes, the modern languages of Europe were formed. They were at first mere dialects of the Latin, but they gradually became so different that they began to be regarded as distinct tongues; thus arose the languages of France, Spain, and Italy. So gradual, however, was the process of their formation, that it is difficult to assign a date for their commencement. It is generally agreed, however, that by about the end of the tenth century Latin had become what we know as a dead language, i.e., one no longer spoken by the living.
So sacred, however, was it regarded, and with such respect as the language of literature, and, it may be added, so useful in various ways to the priesthood as a means of concealment, and thus a source of power over the ignorant, that translations of either Bible or Service Books were considered dangerous and received but little encouragement.
In Germany, as it gradually emerged from the chaos of barbarism under the semi-civilizing influence of Latin Christianity, the Teutonic tongue held its own, but Latin services of the Roman type and Latin Bible were imposed upon her people.
In England, a province of the Roman Empire until 420 A.D., Latin was the language in all probability of the service books of the old British Church.
When Anglo-Saxon – through the invasion and conquest of the land during the fifth and sixth centuries by the Teuton tribes of Jutland and of the neighbourhood of the mouth of the Elbe – became the language of the country, and the old British Church was exterminated or driven into Cornwall and Wales, Christianity was reintroduced from Scotland in the North, and front Rome, under Augustine, in the South. But Latin Liturgies and Latin Bible seem to have been used by all alike.
This state of things, so favourable to the growth of ignorance and superstition, and the power of the hierarchy, continued up to the time of the Reformation. In the sixteenth century, the Scriptures were translated in all the countries where that great movement gained ground, and as the light spread, new Liturgies appeared everywhere in the vernacular.
In England the Book of Common Prayer, based on all that was good and scriptural in the old Latin service books, appeared in 1552, and it was thenceforth accepted as a fundamental principle of scriptural worship that prayer, in order to be worship in spirit and in truth, must be offered in a language understood by the offerer.
Hence the very clear and distinct announcement of the Article that public worship offered, in a language not understood by the worshippers, is plainly opposed to the Word of God, and the custom of the primitive Church.
It may be of interest here to indicate the various sources from which our Book of Common Prayer was derived. Our Reformers had before them, from which to compile their Liturgy, first, what is known as the Breviary. This is the Latin service book containing the various services for the different hours of the day, viz., Matins, Lauds, First, Third, Sixth, Ninth, Vespers, Compline. It was an abbreviated compilation of many services made in the eleventh century by Gregory VII. It was rearranged by Pius V, the last revision being made in 1568. The prayers are in Latin, but portions of it are translated for the use of the unlearned. Then there was what was known as the Manual. This was a handbook containing other services, which we call occasional services, such as that for Baptism, Burial of the Dead, etc. Then there was the Missal, which contains the office of the Mass. This is considered too sacred ever to he translated, and must everywhere be sung in Latin.
Next there was the Pontifical, which contains Offices and Formulas in connection with Ordination, Confirmation, Consecration of Churches, etc. From these four Books our Reformers, rejecting what was superstitious and unscriptural, retaining all that was good, primitive, and scriptural, and in some places substituting prayers of their own composition, produced our simple, matchless, scriptural Book of Common Prayer, a book which, it is perhaps not too much to say, is, next to the Bible, dearest to the hearts of most English-speaking people throughout the world.
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth him.” 1 Cor. 14:2.
“Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” 1 Cor. 14:9.
“If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” 1 Cor. 14:14–17.
Questions on Article XXIV.
1. Why were services and service books originally in Latin?
2. Why was it retained in the services of the Church after it became a dead language?
3. When was the Book of Common Prayer compiled?
4. From what four ancient service books is it mainly taken?
Article XXV – Of the Sacraments.
“Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace and God’s good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in Him.
“There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
“Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
“The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.”
Remarks on the Article.
The word “Sacrament,” here employed for the first time in the Articles, means “anything sacred”. In classical Latin it was often applied to the oath which the soldier took to his commander on enlisting, in which he promised most solemnly and sacredly to be faithful and loyal.
It was also used as a translation of the Greek word “musterion” (mystery), and then meant very much what we mean by a token or symbol, i.e., something visible, signifying something invisible.
In ecclesiastical Latin the word at first was applied to anything of a more than ordinarily sacred character, and is used frequently by the Fathers to designate many other things besides Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Hence quotations from the Fathers to prove that the five Romish ceremonies are Sacraments in the sense in which Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have ever been regarded as Sacraments are fallacies, as they do not use the term in the sense which, after their time, attached itself to the word.
As time went on, by common consent the word obtained a special and ecclesiastical sense, and came to mean very much what it is said to mean in our Church Catechism, viz., “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself as a means whereby we receive the same and a pledge to assure us thereof.”
From an examination of the statements of the Church of Rome as to what a true and proper Sacrament is, we find that her definition is very much the same as ours.
Canon I, Session VII of the Council of Trent runs thus: “ If any one shall say that the Sacraments of the New Law were not instituted by Christ our Lord, or are more or fewer than seven, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, The Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders and Matrimony, or that any of these seven is not truly and properly a Sacrament, let him be Anathema.”
Again, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, Chap. 1, Question 3, we find this definition: “ A Sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace, instituted for our justification.”
Putting the two statements together, we find that they consider that a Sacrament, to be a Sacrament in the true and proper sense, must be an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, ordained by Christ Himself.
This being so, it seems difficult to predicate such things of any save the two which we consider to be the only two sacred ordinances of the Gospel satisfying the terms of the definition.
However, the others are all made, in some way or other, to square with the definition, how fairly and how conclusively may be gauged from the following example.
We will take Confirmation, and see how the difficulties of considering it a Sacrament according to their definition are overcome. Among other things we shall learn, if I mistake not, the utter unscrupulousness as to the use of unfair argument which characterizes the Church of Rome when once she has made up her mind to look at a thing in a particular way. We shall find that here, as everywhere, she sets at nought all natural boundaries and hedges that oppose her, and breaks her way with the utmost recklessness of logic or consequences, through anything and everything she cannot fairly surmount. Can such a Church be trusted? “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Bearing in mind that according to their and our definition of a Sacrament, it must have been ordained by definite words of our Saviour, and also contain some outward symbol of the invisible, we turn to the Catechism of Trent on Confirmation and find the proof of its being a Sacrament thus given: –
Q. 6. “Pastors must explain that not only was it instituted by Christ our Lord, but that by Him were also ordained, as St: Fabian, Pontiff of Rome, testifieth, the rite of Chrism (anointing) and the words which the Catholic Church uses in its administrations.”
Q. 7. “The matter, outward visible sign of this Sacrament, is defined to be the Chrism, or that ointment only which is compounded of oil and balsam, with the solemn consecration of the Bishop. It is further asserted that this is handed down to us by St. Dionysius, and by many other fathers of the gravest authority, particularly by Pope Fabian, who testifies that the Apostles received the composition of Chrism from our Lord and transmitted it to us.”
Q. 11. The form of words in this Sacrament is said to be as follows: – “ I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the Chrism of salvation in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
According to the exigencies of the Tridentine definition, it ought to be proved that Christ appointed these words. Unable to advance anything on this head beyond what was alleged under Question 6, the point is thus evaded. Question 12, “Were we even unable to prove by reason that this is the true and absolute form of this Sacrament, the authority of the Catholic Church, under whose Mastership we have always been thus taught, suffers us not to entertain the least doubt on the subject.”
Observe the argument. The Catholic Church has long regarded Confirmation as a Sacrament in the true and proper sense, therefore Christ must have appointed it! She has long used oil as the outward visible sign, therefore Christ must have told her to do so! She has long used a certain form of words in connection with the rite, therefore Christ must have said them! Judge, all ye of discernment whether the words, “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits,” used by our Reformers in Article XXXI of the doctrines of the masses are not equally applicable to these presumptuous, impertinent, and unscriptural utterances.
How true to the life the inspired portrait of this idolatrous, unfaithful, and apostate Church given us under the figure of “the great Whore that sitteth upon many waters,” in the Apocalypse.
Rev. 17:5, “Upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery (symbol), Babylon the Great, the mother of Harlots, and abominations of the earth.”
Remarks on Article XXV – (Continued).
It may be well at this point to give a brief account of “those five commonly called Sacraments, viz., Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction,” which we say cannot be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, inasmuch as they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
Although regarded as Sacraments long before his time, it is said that Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Paris in the twelfth century, was the first who precisely enumerated the mystic number of seven Sacraments. His “Book of Sentences” was a textbook in theology until the Reformation, and his enumeration became regarded as Catholic.
As it has already been shown, we cannot allow that any of these five are Sacraments in the sense in which Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are Sacraments, because they do not come up to the accepted definition of the word according to which the rite in question must have been instituted by Christ, and must have some outward symbol connected with it, as a sign of something inward and invisible which is set forth by it.
We will now proceed to our Examination. First, then, as to Confirmation. What is it? From very early times it seems to have been regarded as a sort of complement to Infant Baptism, and is probably based on a ceremony connected with the synagogue, just as were most of the rites and ceremonies connected with Christian worship.
At the age of twelve or thereabouts, the Jewish boy, having been circumcised at eight days, when he received what St. Paul calls “the seal of the righteousness of faith,” came forward and became, in the language of the Rabbis, “a son of the law.” Having arrived, presumably, at years of discretion, he took upon himself the responsibilities of an adult Israelite, and was received in membership at the synagogue, and would be expected to attend the Feasts at Jerusalem. (See “Lessons on the Life of our Lord,” Eugene Stock, p. 25.)
So in the Christian Church, seeing that Infant Baptism took the place of infant circumcision, it was necessary that the child should come forward when ho reached years of discretion and take upon himself the responsibilities of the adult Christian. To the ceremony connected with this was given the name Confirmation, because the child ratified or confirmed with his own lips the promises made on his behalf by his sponsors, and, it was charitably presumed, received strength and comfort in his own soul by his formal and public reception into the Church of adults by the laying-on of hands of those who had authority given them in the congregation to do this – restricted, it would seem, in very early times, to the Bishop or presiding Presbyter of the town or district in which the child resided.
The Church of England has retained the rite, on the score of its usefulness, and as not being in any way repugnant to the Word of God ; but refuses on grounds already mentioned to regard it as a Sacrament.
It seems to have been accompanied from early times with the ceremony of anointing with oil, which was based on what most consider a wrong interpretation of the words of 1 John 2:20: “Ye have an unction from the Holy One.” The early history of the rite is wrapped in a good deal of obscurity; it seems sometimes to have followed at once on baptism, sometimes to have been separated from it by a longer or shorter interval; about the twelfth century the custom was to administer it about the age of twelve.
Now as to Penance. The word “penance” is a shortened form of the Latin word “ponitentia,” which means very much what we mean by repentance, viz., the forsaking of sin. In early times, when Christians were overtaken in a fault, they were excluded from communion with the rest for a time, but on manifesting sorrow for their sin, and a desire to be readmitted to fellowship, they were forgiven and restored. This simple practice was corrupted afterwards into what became known as the Sacrament of Penance. It is attended with auricular confession and absolution by a priest, and seems to be imposed on all alike. The one confessing has some punishment imposed on him, which consists sometimes of the recital of so many “Pater Nosters” and “Ave Marias,” sometimes of money payments, sometimes of what is called the infliction of the discipline, or self-flagellation, or torture of some kind.
It is said that it was instituted as a Sacrament by our Lord, when, after His resurrection, He breathed on His disciples, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye retain,” etc. The Church of England, while in her Commination Service she deplores that the original practice, as explained above, had fallen into desuetude, contented herself with that denunciation of sin which accompanies the (aforesaid) Service of Commination, which she has appointed to be read on Ash Wednesday, with an earnest exhortation to those who feel themselves guilty to repent, and to turn to the Lord.
A word or two as to Orders. Orders, commonly called Holy Orders, mean authority to preach the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments. This we allow to be a sacred office, but deny that it possesses the essential properties of a Sacrament. Our Lord’s practice in setting apart the twelve and the seventy, and that of St. Paul in ordaining elders in every Church, while they give the highest possible sanction to the practice followed in almost every section of the Christian Church of setting apart, in a special and solemn manner, men specially qualified for the office, to act as ministers to the others, yet, in the eyes of most Protestants, at least, do not justify us in regarding the ceremony by which such men are set apart as a true and proper Sacrament.
Next as to Matrimony. All branches of the Christian Church are united in regarding the ceremony by which two pledge their sacred troth either to other, till death doth them part, as a very solemn and sacred ordinance; but most fail to see how it can in any way be a Sacrament in the accepted and ecclesiastical use of the term. It was not ordained by Christ, but by God in Paradise. Christ was present at a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, but gave us no words to be used at the ceremony itself. So it must be concluded that, if we find the word “sacramentum” applied to the ordinance in the early Fathers, it is only fair to conclude that they used the word in the sense which the word bore in their times, viz., that of “sacred ordinance,” and must not read into the word used by them, the meaning with which a later ecclesiasticism invested the term.
Finally, as to Extreme Unction. This is the practice of anointing with oil those who, in technical language, are said to be “in extremis,” that is, at the point of death. The anointing is done by the priest, and as he touches with the oil the various organs of the senses, he says, “By this holy unction may God indulge thee, whatever sins thou hast committed by sight, smell, or touch,” etc. The person thus anointed, and dying at once – for it is never applied, if possible, till all hope of recovery is past – is said to have passed away fortified by all the appointed rites of Holy Church, and his position in the other world is considered to be immensely superior to that of others who do not die thus fortified.
The practice is based on the anointing with oil recommended by St. James in his Epistle (5:14, 15). He tells us that if any is sick among them – probably visited with some special illness for special sin, such as is mentioned in 1 Cor. 11 – he is to call for the presbyters of the Church – not one only – and they are directed to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; it is then said that the prayer of faith (not the oil) shall save, or restore to health, the sick person, and if he have committed sins – the special sins visited with this special illness – they shall be forgiven.
As to the practice itself, most Christian Churches are of opinion that it was suitable to an age in which the special miraculous interference of God was experienced, but that when miracles ceased God meant the practice to cease also. As carried on by the Church of Rome, it seems to be a mere travesty of what St. James recommends, and has not the slightest claim to be regarded as a Sacrament, for it was not ordained by Christ, and although in one place (Mark 6:13) it is said that the disciples anointed the sick with oil, we are not told that it was at His command.
For the benefit of those who think that miraculous healing through the application of oil may still be expected, it may be added that healing the sick is most emphatically insisted upon by our Lord, and even coordinated with the preaching of the Gospel, and miraculous powers were, doubtless, imparted for this purpose by Him, and exercised for some considerable time after His Ascension. This being granted, and taking into consideration that He Himself gradually withdrew these miraculous powers, and that scientific research is highly beneficial in the development of man’s natural powers, it would seem that the Lord would have us cure our ailments now, for the most part – there may be exceptions, of course, where it is impossible to obtain medical aid – by ordinary medicinal and surgical appliances.
Remarks on Article XXV – Continued.
The ground having now been cleared, we may proceed to the examination of the important words of the Article, which tells us what Sacraments are.
They are said to be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession; they are this, but much more besides. While, undoubtedly, they serve as a kind of badge or symbol to distinguish a member of a Christian community from one who belongs to any other form of religion, such as Mohammedanism, Buddhism, or Hinduism; and if a man has been baptized, and is a partaker of the Lord’s Supper, we can say in a certain sense that he is a Christian – in addition to this they have another function, and that a much more important one. They are trustworthy witnesses of God’s favour to us. They testify that God is well pleased with us. By them God carries on a work in us which no eye but His can see. By them He stirs up our trust in Him, and strengthens that belief in Him, by which we have already embraced His salvation.
But the Article is careful to add in the last paragraph that the Sacraments are no good at all if a proper use is not made of them; if, as is done by the Romanists, in the case of the Host or consecrated wafer which they blasphemously describe as the body, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are employed in a superstitious way, i.e., are lifted up and worshipped. No! they must be employed in the way in which the Lord Jesus ordained that they should, and in order that they may benefit the receiver, he must be in a worthy or right frame of mind, in other words, he must already be a believer.
In perfect agreement with this, the Church Catechism tells us that there is required in persons to be baptized “repentance whereby they forsake sin, and faith whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made them in that Sacrament.” And, again, when the question is asked with reference to the Lord’s Supper, “What is the inward part or thing signified?” the answer is, “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.”
It may help us, perhaps, in dealing with these statements about the Sacraments, to remember that they have to do with adults, and not infants. Let it be sufficient to say here that infants, on the judgment of charity, and on that alone, are supposed, in accordance with our Church’s view of infant Baptism, to be in a worthy state to receive Baptism – i.e., are charitably supposed to be in a state of repentance and faith, and so to be fit recipients of the Sacrament. On this subject more will be said when we come to Art. XXVII – Of Baptism.
Taking, then, the definition of a Sacrament and its effects as expounded in the Article and the Church Catechism, to apply to adults, what may be said as to the particular effect of each Sacrament on then recipient of that Sacrament.
First, as to Baptism. Let us suppose a case that must often occur in the mission field. The evangelist, say, is in some town in China where the Gospel has never been preached before. He has secured a place in which to deliver his message. He gets up and tells them that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and he explains to them how that God’s only begotten Son became man, and then, in order to atone for the sins of the world, suffered death on the Cross, and that it was God’s will that all who believed that great fact should be regarded as rescued from eternal punishment and as heirs of everlasting glory. There is present one who has long been burdened with the thought of unforgiven sin and filled with a desire for pardon and eternal life. He hears the message and believes it, and lo! he becomes a new creature, and where there was darkness and misery, light and joy and peace and hope spring up. He has become a believer in the Saviour.
But the Saviour has told the evangelist that when disciples are made the next thing is they must be baptized. Now he commences to instruct the convert in the Word of God. After a time of probation, during which he has been able to see whether he has a true faith which manifests itself by love, in other words, when he has satisfied himself that the convert has begun a life of repentance, a life in which he is evidently avoiding the evil and choosing the good he proceeds to baptize him. He first questions him as to whether he really does believe in the Saviour for salvation, and whether it has made a real change in his life. Being satisfied on these points, he either dips him beneath the water or sprinkles water upon him, while he says the words appointed by the Lord, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Now what has been the good of this ceremony? Just this – the water has assured him that as a believer his sins are washed away in the precious blood of Christ, and that the Holy Ghost, so often compared to water, is in his heart to cleanse it. The words have assured him that his place is now in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in other words, that he is united or joined to the Lord. If he receives the Sacrament rightly, as he doubtless has, it will be to him all that the Article declares that a Sacrament is. It will be a sure witness that his sins are forgiven him, it will work invisibly in him by the joy and peace he will experience and by stirring up and strengthening that faith in the Lord, which he received the moment he first believed.
He will next, after a sufficient time of probation, be called upon to take up his position among the Lord’s people by joining them at the Lord’s Table. He will first be confirmed, if he has been received into an Episcopal Church; if not, he will be received into full membership by some ceremony analogous to Confirmation. If he belongs to a mission of the Church of England, as he kneels at the Communion rails he will hear these words said, before he receives the bread, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this (bread) in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed upon him in thy heart, by faith, with thanksgiving.” Before he receives the wine, he will hear these words, “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this (wine) in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.” What good will he get? He will believe that that bread represents Christ’s body broken on the Cross, and that wine represents the blood which atoned for his sin, and as the Article says, he will find God working invisibly in him, quickening or stirring up his faith in Him, and causing him to believe more fully than ever that Christ died for him, and that everlasting life is his through Christ’s death.
Receiving the Sacraments in this way, he will receive them worthily, without any fear of purchasing to himself condemnation as those did whom Paul describes in 1 Cor. 11. He will most assuredly find them to be true and effectual witnesses of God’s favour towards him, he will feel them working in him, and will be strengthened, quickened, and confirmed in his faith by them.
1. Two Sacraments ordained of Christ.
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19.
“And He took bread and gave thanks and break it, and gave unto them saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise also the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the New Testament in My blood which is shed for you.’” Luke 22:19, 20.
2. They are sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace and God’s goodwill towards us.
“And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16.
“As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” 1 Cor. 11:26.
3. They work invisibly in us.
“The like figure whereunto, even baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 3:21.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the body of Christ?” 1 Cor. 10:16.
4. No wholesome effect in unworthy recipients.
Peter said to him (the baptized Simon) “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8:21, 23.
“He that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment) to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” 1 Cor. 11:27.
Questions on Article XXV.
1. Explain “Sacrament,” “Musterion”.
2. What did the word signify in ecclesiastical Latin?
3. What is the later meaning of Sacrament?
4. What are the seven Sacraments according to the Church of Rome?
5. By what false argument is Confirmation made out to be a Sacrament?
6. Give a brief account of the origin of Confirmation; with what ceremony was the rite formerly accompanied?
7. What is the meaning of Penance? What is the “Sacrament of Penance”? and what is the supposed foundation for it?
8. Why are “Orders” and “Matrimony” not to be regarded as Sacraments?
9. On what is the practice of “Extreme Unction” based? What have you to say of the custom of anointing with oil?
Article XXVI – Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament.
“Although, in the Visible Church, the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s and do minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them, which be effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
“Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences, and finally being found guilty by just judgment be deposed.”
Remarks on the Article.
One of the objects for which this Article was inserted seems to have been the removal of scruples from the minds of those who – like many at the Reformation times – thoroughly appreciating the doctrines and services of the Church of England, yet lived in towns or villages where the clergy in their private lives were not what they ought to have been.
If we take into consideration what must have been the state of things in England from the political severance with Rome under Henry VIII in 1534, to the full establishment of the Reformed Religion, by the publication and enactment of the Articles in 1571, we shall be prepared to understand that the state of many of the clergy during that period was far from satisfactory. While there were burning and shining lights among the Bishops, such as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooper, and Jewel, and such excellent men among the parochial clergy as Taylor of Hadleigh, and Rogers of St. Sepulchre’s, the rank and file were for the most part very ignorant, in many cases immoral and worldly; and the majority of them Romanist at heart. With the proverbial facility of a well-known clergyman the sister isle they had conformed to every change under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, and were thus likely to be in private character unprincipled, ignorant, and time serving.
No one feels happy in listening to a man who is felt to be insincere even in the matter of politics, and the feeling becomes one of disgust and loathing when the matter in question is religion. There must have been many at the period mentioned who were suffering greatly from the ministrations of evil ministers, and who at times must have felt, and that conscientiously, that it was a matter of very great doubt as to whether such ministrations could possibly do them any good; as to whether it were not wrong even to attend upon such ministrations.
It was felt by our Reformers that such a state of things was a very real grievance and cause of offence, and that some authoritative announcement on the subject was necessary. Hence the Article.
The parable of the tares forewarns us that in the outward Church as opposed to the inward and true Church consisting of real believers only, we must expect to find both bad and good, and often to see wicked persons engaged in dispensing the gospel and administering the Sacraments. For all that we must remember that we are not dependent on them necessarily; they, whether bad or good, are only stewards and do not give out their own stores, but those of their Master; so taking this view of them, we may listen to the Word of God from their lips and receive the Sacraments from their hands.
Neither need we be afraid that the wickedness of these people can invalidate the ordinances which they administer, nor fear that any diminution of grace that we should otherwise receive will take place in our case if we come to the Sacraments in faith, i.e., in a right and proper frame of mind, and have them administered to us in the way that the Lord has appointed them, for these Sacraments have their due effect, owing to their being administered in the way in which Christ has ordered that they should, and because He has promised good to the faithful recipient, in spite of the fact that evil men may have the administering of them.
Some such assurance as this is certainly necessary, as so many are disposed to think that the value of a religious ministration depends much more on the one administering than on the thing itself ministered and the recipient, and it is to be hoped that the words of the Article did – at the troubled time of its publication, and do still in similar times of distress, which, alas! are so often recurring – serve to quiet the conscience of the weaker brethren, and to comfort them in circumstances which are always peculiarly distressing.
But as no one can be induced for long to put up with or attend upon the ministrations of men who are wicked and ungodly, the Article is careful to add that those in authority in the Church should make a practice of inquiry into the conduct of ungodly ministers, that they should be confronted with witnesses able to testify against their evil practices, and that if they should be found guilty, they should be degraded from their office.
It has generally been supposed that as well as the foregoing, the peculiar doctrine of the Church of Rome, known as the doctrine of Intention, was in the minds of the Reformers when they drew up this Article.
The Council of Trent agrees with us that a minister living in sin may confer a valid sacrament. But it requires (Canon ii) the intention, “on the part of the administrator ‘to do that which the Church does.’” If there be not this, the Sacrament is not valid, and the recipient gets no good. According to this view we can see how everything in the Church of Rome is thrown into confusion. No one can ever be certain of anything. The priest may not be a proper priest, as the Bishop who ordained him may not have intended to do what the Church does. A man may not be truly baptized, for the priest may not have intended in the true sense to baptize him; and eve might multiply instance after instance to show that no Romanist, considering the strict sacramental view of grace conferred by the work worked in the Sacrament, upheld by that Church, can ever be certain of anything. He may not be a Christian at all ; for he has not, perhaps, been properly baptized. Be may not have been absolved. He may not have received the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He may not have received Extreme Unction. He may find himself for ever in Hell, owing to the fact that the ministrations of his priest may not have been performed with the right intention.
From all such trifling, as well as from the graver difficulties connected with clergy of immoral lives, the Article – basing its decision on the Scriptures, as will be seen presently from the proofs to follow – happily delivers us. Christ is received, whether in His Word, or through His Sacraments, by faith, the faith of the recipient. Christ, therefore, cannot be debarred from coming to him (John 14:23) by the neglect, wickedness, or unbelief of any other, whether official of the Church or not. Nothing can keep Christ from the heart but our own impenitence and unbelief.
We may arrange them conveniently thus:–
1. In the Visible Church the evil are mixed with the good, and sometimes have chief authority in its ministrations.
“So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all, as many as they found, both bad and good, and the wedding was furnished with guests.” Matt. 22:10.
“Judas was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this Ministry.” Acts 1:17.
2. They minister not in their own name, but Christ’s.
“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy Name cast out devils and in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me ye that work iniquity.” Matt. 7:22, 23.
“Who, then, is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, as the Lord gave to every man?” 1 Cor. 3:5.
3. We may use the ministry of such.
“The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not.” Matt. 23:23.
What then? Notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Phil. 1:18.
4. Authority for deposing evil ministers being found guilty.
“Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord that he might fulfill the Word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh,” 1 Kings 2:27.
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenmus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Tim. 1:19, 20.
Questions on Article XXVI.
1. What is the object of this Article?
2. Show its necessity at the time it was drawn up.
3. What is the Romish doctrine of Intention?
4. How is it refuted by this Article?
Article XXVII – Of Baptism.
“Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sin and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed, and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.”
Remarks on the Article.
We notice particularly here the emphatic way in which baptism is spoken of us a sign or sacrament. It is not regeneration itself, but only the sign, or symbol, or token. If only all could always bear this in mind while thinking, or reading, or speaking of baptism, the difficulties which at present becloud the subject would be wonderfully simplified.
Baptism, equally with the Lord’s Supper, is a sign, and not the thing signified; to regard either of them otherwise is in each case to destroy in them the nature of a sacrament, by turning what is merely a sign into the thing symbolized by the sign.
Rome, in spite of her accepted definition of a sacrament – the same in essence as ours – turns this sacrament, as well as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, into the thing signified. In other words she makes baptism in all respects identical with regeneration, and holds that the baptized person must necessarily, simply owing to the work wrought by the sacrament, be what the Scriptures tell us those are, who, through faith in Christ, have become new creatures in Him. In fact she calls it the sacrament of faith, i.e., presumably the sacrament by which saving faith, with all its glorious consequences, is conveyed to the soul.
In the Catechism of Trent (Part II, Chap. II, Q. 41–57) she thus speaks of the effects of baptism: – “ Sin is remitted and pardoned, whether originally contracted from our first parents, or actually committed by ourselves, however great its enormity.” She further adds: “The remaining concupiscence or innate predisposition to sin does not really possess the nature of sin.” Why a state of uncorrupt nature is not straightway restored by baptism is said to be “because we are not to be more honoured than Christ our Head, who did not lay aside the fragility of human nature, and because what we have to struggle with gives us the germs and materials of virtue, from which we may afterwards obtain more abundant fruit of glory and more ample rewards.” For the further results of baptism it is asserted that “the soul is replenished with divine grace. But grace is not only that whereby sin is remitted, but is also a divine quality inherent in the soul, and, as it were, a certain splendour and light that effaces all the stains of our souls, and renders the souls themselves brighter and more beautiful. To this is added a most noble train of all virtues, which are divinely infused into the soul with grace.”
The question why the baptized so frequently belie this character infused into them in baptism is of course hard to answer. It is put down to “the severe conflict of the flesh against the spirit.” But it is finally confessed that all do not participate in an equal degree of its heavenly grace and fruits.
With the exception of the sentence which tells us that the innate predisposition to sin which remains in the baptized does not really possess the nature of sin, we have here a very fair description of one who has been morally and spiritually changed or regenerated by a saving faith in Christ, but to say that baptism in itself works the change is surely to confuse the thing signified with the sign and to deprive baptism of its true character, which is that of a sacrament, or outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, and not necessarily, or unconditionally the grace itself.
It is this same confusion of ideas which has led to the adoption, by the generality, it is to be feared, of those who belong to the Church of England, of a theory as to the effects of baptism, very similar to that held by the Church of Rome.
Almost all – High Church or Low Church alike – seem to be of opinion – misunderstanding, as it would seem, the very strong expression as to the effect of baptism in the Service for the Baptism of Infants – that some great change must necessarily occur in the person baptized; in fact, that in some sense or other – higher or lower, according to the views of the holder – every baptized person is, as a matter of fact, regenerated. What is this but identifying baptism with regeneration? All Israelites were circumcised, and circumcision, like baptism, was a seal of the righteousness of faith; but it is certain that God does not regard all those who were, in a sense, His people, although bearing the outward signs that they are, as possessing the righteousness of faith, and so necessarily regenerate. If He does, what becomes of the denunciations of the prophets in the Old Testament, and of Christ and His Apostles – St. Paul, St. James, and St. John – in the New?
Now let us see what we are taught by the Church of England on the subject. And to begin with, we must bear in mind that the Baptism of which the Article speaks is that of adults. It dismisses the baptism of infants with the significantly brief assertion that it ought to be retained in the Church because it is in the highest degree consistent with the commandment of Christ in connection with His institution of the rite. For the present, therefore, we will postpone the subject of Infant Baptism until our next Reading.
Baptism then in the case of adults (see answer to question in Church Catechism “What is required of persons to be baptized?”) – i.e., of course those adults who are fit and proper subjects for baptism, owing to the fact that they are giving up sin and putting their whole trust for salvation in the finished work of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – is not only a badge by which they shall henceforth be known as Christians, as distinguished from heathen, but it is a sign to them that receiving baptism rightly, that is as true believers, they are born again, dead and buried with Christ, and risen again with Him; and that by it, as by a grafting tool, they are inserted into the Church, i.e., Christ’s body, and become limbs or members of that frame of which He is the Head. It is a sign and assurance to such that their sins are washed away in His precious blood, and that being joined to Christ they are partakers of the Holy Spirit, and thus made God’s children by their admittance into His spiritual family among men. By this significant ceremony faith is not implanted, for it already exists; but is strengthened; for the cleansing in which the recipient already believes through the word, is confirmed by the sign of the water in the ordinance. Grace, that is the strength to avoid evil, and choose the good, owing to the work of God the Holy Ghost in the soul, is not infused, for this happened at the moment that Christ was trusted as the only Saviour from sin, death, and hell; but it is increased owing to the prayer which accompanies the administration of the rite.
These may be arranged under the following headings:–
1. Baptism, a sign of regeneration or new birth.
“We are buried with Him by baptism unto death, that like as Christ was raised ‘up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom. 6:4.
“According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5.
2. An instrument for grafting believers into the Church.
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19.
“They that gladly received His word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:41.
3. Forgiveness of sin and adoption visibly signed and sealed.
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38.
“By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:13.
4. Faith is confirmed and grace increased by prayer.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Heb. 10:22.
“Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the Name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16.
Article XXVII – (Continued) – Infant Baptism.
“The Baptism of young children is in anywise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.”
At the time when the Articles were drawn up there were many – as there had been before, and will be to the end – who objected to the Baptism of infants, on the ground that Baptism presupposes, on the part of the recipient, repentance and faith, and that as unconscious infants cannot possess these, they cannot receive Baptism rightly, i.e., in the proper frame of mind.
Now, while our Article is careful to tell us that only those who partake of Baptism rightly receive with the outward sign the inward and spiritual grace, yet it asserts most emphatically, that Infant Baptism is to be retained. Does, then, our Church maintain that all infants have repentance and faith, and therefore receive Baptism rightly, or what does she teach on the subject? To the superficial reader it would seem, from certain strong expressions used in the Service for the Baptism of Infants, that, according to her teaching, we are to regard every baptized infant as unconditionally regenerate, i.e., as forgiven, as an heir of eternal life, and a partaker of the Holy Ghost, for is not the minister directed to say after the ceremony, “Seeing that this child is regenerate,” and again, “We yield Thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased Thee to regenerate this infant with Thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for Thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into Thy Holy Church.” Surely here, in the plainest words, the Church of England teaches the unconditional spiritual regeneration of every baptized infant.
In forming an opinion on this momentous subject we must take several things into consideration: – 1. The important fact that in the interpretation of any document we must bear in mind the known opinions of the one who drew it up. Now the Reformers who got out our Articles were what is called Calvinistic in their views of Divine grace, and were distinctly opposed to the opus operatum theory of Rome, i.e., the doctrine that man, through the Sacraments, can control the actions of Divine grace; they believed in election and predestination, in God’s purpose, secret from us to save from all eternity by Christ those whom He would, and therefore would have regarded it almost bordering on blasphemy to teach, that every baptized infant must necessarily be regarded as receiving Baptism rightly, and is by the act of Baptism enrolled amongst the number of those upon whom from all eternity God has resolved to confer grace and eternal life. Of such impertinence as this we cannot conceive such men as Crammer, Ridley, and Latimer to have been guilty.
2. Another important fact in close connection with the foregoing, and that is, the decision of legal experts – who surely are entitled to the highest consideration and respect in such matters – that, taking into consideration the known opinions of those who drew up the Baptismal Service, we are not compelled to believe that the teaching of the Church of England is the unconditional regeneration of all baptized infants, in spite of the strong language used in this connection in the service for the Baptism of Infants. This decision was arrived at in the famous Gorham Case in the year 1847. A clergyman of this name was refused institution to a living by Bishop Phillpotts on the ground that he did not believe in the unconditional regeneration of all infants in Baptism. An action was brought against the Bishop. The Court of Arches decided against Mr. Gorham. An appeal was made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, consisting of five eminent judges, the two Archbishops, and the Bishop of London. The two Archbishops and four judges concurred in reversing the decision of the inferior court. The Bishop of London and one judge refused to concur. The judgment acquitted Mr. Gorham of holding False doctrines, and came to the conclusion that the services abound with expressions which must be construed in a charitable and qualified sense, and cannot with any appearance of reason be taken as proofs of doctrine. It also says that opinions, like those of Mr. Gorham, had been held from the first by eminent prelates and divines without censure or reproach. Among these Bishop Jewel, Hooker, Archbishop Usher, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Bishop Carleton, and Bishop Prideaux are cited.
3. The fact that the child is not pronounced regenerate in the service until, by its sponsors, it has declared that it repents and believes. This being the case, what other words could be used than those that are used? If the child before Baptism has confessed that it gives up sin and believes in the Lord Jesus, it must be charitably supposed, as in the case of any adult doing the same, that it is receiving baptism rightly, and if so we may say of it, as we should say of any adult, that it is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church. This is the explanation offered us of Infant Baptism in the Church Catechism. Having been informed that Repentance and Faith are necessary to a valid Baptism; the question is asked, “Why, then, are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform these promises?” and the answer is, “Because they promise them both (i.e., Repentance and Faith) by their sureties, which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.” No Church has taken greater pains than the Church of England in avoiding the least appearance of teaching that the Sacrament of Baptism in itself confers regeneration, and to this conclusion we are driven from observing the careful way in which, before Baptism, she demands from the child, through its sponsors, a confession of Repentance and Faith. So scrupulous is she to teach that Baptism is only for those who rightly receive it.
Though charitably supposed and pronounced to be regenerate on its confession of Repentance and Faith, it will have to show that it is so by the exercise of those graces before it is really so in the eyes of the Lord, who looketh on the heart.
We are not, then, bound to hold the unconditional regeneration, i.e., an actual moral and spiritual change in the state of the heart of every child that is baptized, in order to be true members of the Church of England.
How, then, should we defend the practice of Infant Baptism?
1. Infants under the Old Dispensation were commanded to be circumcised; and for true and complete circumcision a right state of heart was necessary, for circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of faith; if this were so, why should not infants now be baptized for it implies exactly what circumcision did, being a pledge and assurance to the believer that he is accepted in the dead and risen Christ, and is therefore righteous by faith.
2. Our Lord, if He had meant to exclude infants, would have given a command most likely to this effect, more especially seeing that infants of proselytes to the Jewish Faith were baptized with their parents.
3. The Apostles baptized households in which it is only fair to suppose there were infants.
4. Unless some specific command had been given to the contrary, it would seem that our Lord’s institution of the rite in the words, “go ye and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” would be most likely to be interpreted by converts as including their children with them.
5. The practice of baptizing infants has obtained in the Church from the earliest times.
The following are generally given as bearing on the practice:–
“Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.’” Mark 10:14.
“And when she (Lydia) was baptized and her household.” Acts 16:15.
“And they spake unto him (the jailer) the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house; and he was baptized, and all his straightway.” Acts 16:33.
“And I baptized also the household of Stephanas.” 1 Cor. 1:16.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife (regarded as ceremonially clean); and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now are they holy (i.e., ceremonially fit and proper subjects for baptism).” 1 Cor. 7:14.
Questions on Article XXVII.
1. Why is baptism emphatically described as a sign?
2. How does Rome confuse the sign and the thing signified?
3. What is meant by receiving baptism rightly?
4. What have you to say of “baptismal regeneration”?
5. How do you justify the strong expressions used in the office for Infant Baptism?
6. Give arguments in favour of Infant Baptism.
Article XXVIII – Of the Lord’s Supper.
“The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
“Transubstantiation (or the change of the Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
“The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
“The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.”
Remarks on the Article.
It is proposed – inasmuch as the immense importance of the subject, especially at the present day, warrants a somewhat exhaustive treatment – to deal with the teaching contained in this Article in three successive readings.
In this, an endeavour will be made to expound the doctrine of the Church of England on the subject of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
In the next, Transubstantiation will be dealt with.
In the third, the method of the reception of the elements, with the abuses connected with the Sacrament, will be considered.
It will be seen at a glance that this subdivision of subjects follows naturally the order of the paragraphs into which the Article is divided.
First, then, as to the doctrine of the Church of England on this important subject. At the time of the Reformation there was a good deal of difference of opinion on this Sacrament. Luther never could get over the words, “This is My Body,” as applied by our Lord to the Bread. He said, forgetting the very common use of the verb “to be” in all languages in the sense of “to represent,” that these words must mean, “This is really, and truly, and literally My Body.” Hence arose the doctrine held by the Lutherans called Consubstantiation, which is supposed to imply that somehow, in a way past all comprehension, the substance of the body of Christ at the moment of reception by the faithful takes up its position in the bread, and exists besides and with the substance of the bread, and the same is held with respect to the wine.
This doctrine, however, involves the same difficulty as the Romish doctrine of Transubstantiation, inasmuch as it would seem that somehow or other Christ’s literal flesh and blood are necessarily received by the faithful partaker. What is this but to turn the sign into the thing signified and so to destroy the nature of a sacrament, and thus to materialize what is intended to be figurative and spiritual?
The Swiss Reformer, Zwingle, has generally been considered to have attached too little importance to this Sacrament, and to have looked at it as a mere symbol of the atoning death of Christ, and not a special or effectual means of grace, but with how much justice may be gathered from his own words. In his confession of faith he speaks of it thus: “I believe that in the Holy Eucharist the true body of Christ is present to faith by contemplation.” The Zwinglian doctrine – as it is conveniently, perhaps, but inaccurately styled – implying that the elements are bare signs though held by individual members of the Protestant denominations, is not the accepted doctrine of any one of them; all, excepting the Lutherans, holding substantially the views of the Church of England on the subject.
What, then, are these views? They may be gathered from this Article and the Catechism. Combining the two, we learn that the Sacrament, while it sets forth through the common participation of all in one loaf, and one cup, the unity and love that ought to exist between Christians; besides this, and much more than this, is a symbol to us of our rescue by ransom through the death of Christ. In fact, as the Catechism says, it was ordained for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, i.e., to be a continual reminder that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, and that we are saved by His precious blood-shedding. And, therefore, provided that we receive it administered in all essentials as the Lord appointed it, in a proper spirit and manner, and possessed of real faith in Christ as the Atonement for our sins, then the bread which we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ, and the cup which we bless is a sharing in the Blood of Christ, for the Body and Blood of Christ are veritably and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper. Those who thus partake have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life sealed to them, as they eat the bread and drink the wine, the symbols of the flesh broken, and the blood poured out to win these benefits. As the Communion Service says, they spiritually, not literally, but figuratively, eat the flesh of Christ and drink His Blood; they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them; they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; they are assured of God’s favour and goodness towards them; they are very members incorporate in the mystical body of God’s Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people, and are also heirs through hope of God’s everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of God’s dear Son.
In fact, the teaching of the Church of England is not only that we remember in this ordinance Christ’s death for our sins, but that we are reminded of our participation by faith in that great atoning sacrifice, and of the mutual indwelling of the Saviour in us, and ourselves in the Saviour in such a way that it may be truly said that in that ordinance we feast on Christ Himself, the Bread of Life, and get strengthened and refreshed in our souls by Him as our bodies are strengthened and refreshed by the Bread and Wine.
It may be well here to call attention to the words the minister is directed to use when he presents the bread and wine to any communicant, as they are expressed somewhat peculiarly. When he gives the bread to anyone he is directed to say, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee,” etc. In the first sentence the minister prays that the recipient may be saved by the body of Christ (not the bread he holds in his hand) which was given for him on the cross, and then proceeds, handing the bread, to say, “Take and eat this i.e., this bread”; if the word Body in the first sentence had been meant to refer to the bread on the paten, the pronoun “it” rather than “this” would have been used to express the idea. The same thing applies to the words to be said before the cup is given, “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul,” i.e., may the atoning blood be trusted in by thee for salvation. “Drink this, i.e., this wine, in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.” These words are much simplified if thus understood in their natural sense; but it is to he feared that they are often interpreted in an non-natural sense, and may then be wrested to prove that the Church of England teaches the change of the bread and wine after the consecration into the body and blood of the Lord. That this is the use to which the words are put may be gathered from the way in which in the Churches noted for their Romanist leanings the first part of the formula, more especially at the times when there are large numbers of communicants, is alone pronounced to each recipient.
Scripture Proofs of the First Part of the Article.
1. The Lord’s Supper a sign of the unity of Christians.
“And they continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Acts 2:46.
“We, being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.” 1 Cor. 10:17.
2. It is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, take, eat, this is My Body. And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drink ye all of it, for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matt. 26:26, 28, see also 1 Cor. 11:23, 26.
3. It is a partaking of Christ’s flesh and blood by the worthy recipient.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” 1 Cor. 10:16.
“Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. ... For be that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (temporal judgment) to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body.” 1 Cor. 11:27, 29.
Article XXVIII – (continued). Transubstantiation.
“Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of the Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”
Remarks on the Subject.
Transubstantiation, like every other false doctrine, can be proved from Scripture, if you take isolated fragments of the same on which to build your proofs, or interpret in an unfair or non-natural sense.
For instance, we can prove atheism from the Scriptures, for is it not written, “There is no God”. Or, again, we can prove that Christ is a tree, for did He not say “I am the Vine”? And it is just in this kind of way that the doctrine of Transubstantiation arose – viz., through a slavish literalism of interpretation of Holy Writ.
Our Lord in the Gospels met and rebuked this tendency when He said to His disciples, who interpreted Him literally when they should have understood Him figuratively, “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” “Then” it is added, “understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Matt. 16:11, 12.
But the evil seems just as rife as if the Lord had not spoken, and so perverted is man’s understanding, as well as everything else connected with his nature by the Fall, that presumably it always will be the case.
At an early period a good deal of unnecessary and unscriptural mystery and ceremonial gathered round the administration of the Lord’s Supper, due, it would seem, to a too literal interpretation of the words of the institution, “This is My Body.” As ceremonial grew, and superstition gathered, and the Christian presbyter came to be regarded as the Mosaic sacrificing priest, and as having a mysterious power of mediatorship, and the forgiving of sins became more and more arrogated by pride, and conceded by ignorance and superstition to the Christian ministry, it began to be received as a common.
Article of the faith, on the authority of the Lord’s words, “This is My Body,” that the priest had the power by pronouncing these words to change the bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ.
How tempting it was for the priesthood to foster such a doctrine we can easily imagine, when we reflect, with what a divine character such a reputation would invest their persons. How sacred their altars would appear in the eyes of the ignorant where such a miracle was wrought? How holy the chancels in which those altars were placed! how sacrosanct the churches of which those altars and chancels were parts? What a grand argument would the currency of such a belief be with the ignorant, for the more than human power in word and deed of one entrusted by God with the working of so great a miracle?
So encouraged, but not without many an earnest protest, the error grew apace, until, more particularly through the advocacy of one Paschasius Radbertus, a monk of the monastery of Corbey in France, (950 A.D.), the doctrine afterwards known by the title Transubstantiation gradually became adopted as a belief of the Church both east and west.
The title generally given to it is said to have been first conferred by the Council of Lateran, 1215.
As the word suggests, the doctrine teaches that after the words of consecration are pronounced over the Bread and Wine, it is to be believed that the substance or underlying essence of the elements altogether vanishes from the bread and wine, and is replaced by the essence, or substance of the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, according to the teaching of the Canons of the Council of Trent, we are told that the body and blood of Christ, together with His soul and divinity, and therefore the whole Christ, are truly and really, and substantially contained in the Eucharist; that in each wafer, and each sip of wine, and under each individual part of each when separated, the whole Christ is contained.
In answer to the reasonable objection, if this be so how is it that the elements look and taste and smell, and feel like bread and wine if they are really flesh and blood? It is usually asserted, that while the substance or underlying essence is changed, the accidents, as they are called, or species, such as appearance, smell, taste and feel, remain those of bread and wine; which accounts for the fact that no outward change is visible.
To this unscientific and unreasonable quibble it may be sufficient to answer that our Lord, when offering proof of His Resurrection to His disciples, evidently expected them to use their senses in the matter, for He says, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones. as ye see Me have,” and therefore we may conclude that when substances are subjected to our senses which look, and taste, and feel, and smell like bread and wine, and not like flesh and blood, those substances are bread and wine and not flesh and blood.
In spite of the utter unscriptural and unreasonable nature of the belief, Transubstantiation, like Mariolatry, and the supremacy of the Pope, is one of the main pillars of the Roman edifice. Granted that it is true, all attendant superstitions follow. The wafer is God and must be worshipped; the place in which it is kept is the very abode of God; adoration must be done to the Altar, which is God’s throne, little short of worship must be paid to the privileged individual who has power to convert a piece of bread into the body, soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; wherever that wafer goes, it goes as God; it must be taken in procession to avert plague, pestilence, and famine; all who partake must by the act of partaking become the dwelling place of the Almighty!
It is no wonder that this mighty error – so productive of the grossest superstition – is thus plainly condemned by our Reformers in the Article on the Lord’s Supper. Calmly, majestically, and simply we are told that it cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.
From the perusal of what has gone before, it will be evident that there is no foundation for the doctrine in Scripture; that it is plainly repugnant to the words of Scripture may be gathered from what follows. Christ said, after consecrating and distributing the elements at its first institution (Matt. 26:29), “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine” (and the fruit of the vine is wine, not blood) “until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom.” St. Paul, in speaking of the Sacrament in 1 Cor. 11, hints at no change in the elements after consecration, for he says (verses 26, 27), “As often as ye eat this bread (not flesh) and drink of this cup”; and again (verse 28), “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.”
As it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, so there is no difficulty in maintaining that it overthrows the nature of a Sacrament, for it is of the nature of a Sacrament (according to both the Roman and the Anglican definition of the term) to be an outward and visible sign, or symbol of something else, which is spiritual and invisible. But the doctrine of Transubstantiation destroys the substance of the bread and wine by making them to become flesh and blood. Thus it destroys the very nature and essence of a Sacrament by changing the sign into the thing signified.
The unworthy quibble in answer to this, viz., that the accidents of the bread and wine, i.e., look, taste, smell, and feel, remain those of bread and wine, and that these must be regarded as the outward sign, cannot be maintained for a moment, as these in such material things as are under consideration go to make up the substance, and if the substance is changed, as they say it is, these must be changed also. That the doctrine has given rise to many superstitions may be gathered from what has already been said; but this point is reserved for further treatment in our next reading, when the abuses connected with the Sacrament will be more fully considered.
Article XXVIII – Continued.
The subject of this Reading is, as already announced, the method of reception of the elements coupled with the abuses that have arisen in connection with the Sacrament. In accordance with the exigencies of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which teaches that after the words of consecration by the priest, the substance of bread is changed into the substance of the body of Christ containing His soul and divinity, and the substance of the wine is changed into the substance of His blood; it is necessary to believe that whoever or whatever partakes (for Romanists themselves admit that even mice may partake by eating the crumbs!) must receive the body, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. This in itself is a refutation of the doctrine, and enough to prove its unscriptural character, for if we partake of Christ really we have within us God Himself by His Spirit, or in other words, eternal life; hence everyone and everything, taking the wafer or any part of the wafer, has eternal life. But the Scripture condition for eternal life is faith, for Christ saith, “He that believeth in Me, i.e., looks to Me alone for salvation, hath everlasting life.” But it is acknowledged on all hands that many who take the elements are wicked and unbelieving, and that even animals may take them, how can such have eternal life? Therefore it seems clear that the doctrine is absurd, unscriptural, and false.
But according to the Scriptural teaching of the Church of England there is no change whatever in the elements after consecration; the declaration at the end of the Communion Service which justifies a kneeling reception is most clear on this point. It runs thus, “It is hereby declared that thereby (by kneeling) no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the sacramental bread or wine there bodily received or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood. For the sacramental bread and wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored (for that were idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians), and the natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven and not here, it being against the truth of Christ’s natural body to be at one time in more places than one.”
This being so, it only remains that as the Article says the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.
While we learn that the body of Christ is received by those who right worthily and with faith partake of the Sacrament, we also learn that no change takes place in the elements. After a heavenly and spiritual manner, i.e., not literally but figuratively, and symbolically to feed the partaker’s soul, not his body. The emblem of the body of Christ passes from the hands of the administrator to those of the recipient without being changed into flesh and blood; it is taken by him unchanged; it is eaten by him unchanged. In fact, believing as the worthy recipient does, that Christ, by giving His body to be crucified for his sins, has atoned for his sins; when lie takes and eats the bread, the symbol of His body so crucified, he may be said most appropriately in the figurative language of Scripture to receive and eat the body of Christ – for in partaking of that bread he appropriates to himself, to his great and endless comfort, the atoning work of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And in the same way, as he partakes of the cup, he may be said to drink the blood of Christ, for the precious blood-shedding of Christ won him forgiveness and eternal life; and as he drinks the wine, he appropriates again to himself, just in the same way as he does when he eats the bread, the atoning work of the Saviour.
That eating and drinking Christ’s flesh and blood simply means the appropriating to ourselves His atoning work by faith seems clear from a careful examination of a couple of verses in John 6. In verse 47 we are told, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth in Me hath everlasting life”; i.e., of course, he that looks on me as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, is an heir of glory. Further on, verse 54, we read, “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life.” Seeing that believing in Christ and eating His flesh and blood are attended with the same result, viz., eternal life, we come to the conclusion that believing in Him, and eating His flesh and drinking His blood are one and the same thing, and that therefore there is no need for the coarse, material, unscriptural invention of transubstantiation in order to the explanation of the Saviour’s words; but that to partake of His flesh and blood means nothing more than to appropriate by faith His atoning work, which has procured for us eternal life.
We can do this at any time by faith; but the Lord to help us and to emphasize the important truth that it is only through His death that we get eternal life, has appointed that most significant ordinance called in Scripture the Supper of the Lord, to keep this fact before us, and as often as we eat that bread and drink that cup we show forth to ourselves the Lord’s death till He come. All this being the case, we find no difficulty in acknowledging with the Church Catechism that as the outward and visible sign of the Lord’s Supper is the bread and wine which the Lord hath commanded to be received, so the inward part or thing signified is “the body and blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.”
It may here be remarked that the Article only mentions the body of Christ and not the blood, because the Romanists refuse the cup to the Laity, saying that as the whole Christ, body, soul, and divinity is contained in the wafer, there is no need to administer the cup.
It now remains that we should briefly glance at some of the abuses rife in connection with the Sacrament.
The Article concludes by saying that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped. All these things naturally follow on a belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation, or in fact in a belief in any change whatever in the elements after consecration.
It is the custom; as we know, in the Roman Church to reserve a wafer in what is called the tabernacle on the altar, so as to have Christ Himself in bodily presence in the Church. Hence the lamp always seen suspended before the altar. The wafer (called significantly by the French “le bon Dieu”) is reserved, and taken by the priest as a magic charm to the sick. The wafer or host (Hostia = victim) as it is called, is taken in procession as if it were God Himself (and so it is, if transubstantiation be true) accompanied by priests with acolytes, crosses; and candles, etc., to appease God’s wrath in times of trouble or sickness. It is taken from the tabernacle, held up before the assembled congregation, who fall down and worship it. At the time of consecration a bell rings, and all within the church and without, if passing at the time, are expected to go down on their knees in an attitude of worship. As the worshipper comes into the church he is expected to bow his head or knees to the east end, for there is God Himself in the wafer in the tabernacle. Hence, too, arise the lying legends concerning bleeding wafers reported to have been seen in proof of transubstantiation by poor, crazy fanatics.
The Article dismisses all these superstitions by saying “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance – however it may have been perverted by man’s! – reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.” And the inference is that if it is so treated there is no authority from Christ for such treatment, and that those who thus superstitiously regard it are making the word of God of none effect by their tradition.
The old superstition centering round the error that some change takes place in the elements at the words of consecration, discarded by the Protestant Churches at the Reformation is once more unblushingly acknowledged by many thousands calling themselves members of our Protestant Church! It makes itself felt and seen in all the elaborate ritual that everywhere is finding its way into our Services, for all of it can be justified if God really resides in the Bread and the Wine – changed by a miracle by the words of the Priest – on the so-called Altars of our so-called Sacrariums.
What is needed is a spirit-taught clergy and a spirit-taught laity, where these are found, the superstition cannot live; for these and these only, can appreciate and apply in the matter, the words of our Lord, who speaking on the subject says “The flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” These will be able to discern between the literal and figurative in our Lord’s words and will know that when He says, “This is My Body,” He means, “This represents My Body,” and when He says, “This is My Blood,” He means, “This represents My Blood.” If the Holy Ghost were more honoured, His teaching more sought, we should soon be delivered from the Romish abomination of transubstantiation.
Those against transubstantiation have already been considered in the preceding reading. Those that have to do with the last part of the Article may be arranged as under:–
1. The figurative and spiritual nature of the body received.
“How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” John 6:52.
“It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not.” John 6: 63, 64.
2. The body of Christ is received not literally but by faith.
“Whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:54.
“Everyone which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40.
3. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as ordained by Christ.
“And He took bread and gave thanks and brake it, and gave unto them saying This is My Body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper saying, This cup is the New Testament in My Blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:19, 20, cf. 1 Cor. 11:23, 25.
Questions on Article XXVIII.
1. What is the Lutheran Doctrine of “Consubstantiation”?
2. State briefly the Protestant view of the “partaking” of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
3. Explain the “formula” used in the administration of the elements.
4. How did the doctrine of transubstantiation arise? When was the name first conferred
5. Give the doctrine of the Council of Trent on Transubstantiation.
6. Show how the Romish and Lutheran doctrines are (a) repugnant to the words of Scripture (b) overthrow the nature of a Sacrament.
7. Point out some of the absurdities to which the doctrine of Transubstantiation gives rise.
8. What is “reservation of the Sacrament”?
Article XXIX – Of the wicked which eat not the body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper.
“The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as St. Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body, and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.”
Remarks on the Article.
This Article may be described as a corollary of the preceding. There we were told that the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper is Faith. Here, as .a plain inference, from that statement, we are assured that no one who has not a true faith in Christ, in any wise receives Christ in that Sacrament.
This Article is not found amongst the Forty-two drawn up in the time of Edward VI, but was added by Archbishop Parker in Elizabeth’s reign in 1563. Mary’s reign had emphasized in the most terrible way by prison and stake that the great difference between the two religions, Romanist and Protestant, lay in the support or rejection of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. In fact, it was for the denial of this doctrine that men, women, and children were imprisoned, tortured, and burned. We are not then surprised to find Elizabeth’s Protestant Archbishop adding such an article as this, in which, in the plainest possible words, he not only denies the doctrine, but that he may expose the contradictory nature of the teaching of the Church of Rome, also denies it in the very words of one whom that Church honours as one of her most revered teachers.
The reader perhaps scarcely needs reminding that the Augustine here mentioned is not the monk who was sent in the year 597 by Pope Gregory on a mission to Kent, but Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, near Carthage, in North Africa. He flourished during the fourth century (A.D. 354 to 430), and though one of the most evangelical of what are called the Fathers, and a most stout upholder of the doctrines of grace as expounded by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, is yet most highly revered by the Roman Church, so much so that he ranks with Jerome, Ambrose, and Gregory, as one of the four Latin Fathers whom that Church delights to honour next to the four evangelists. He was a most voluminous writer on almost. all conceivable subjects connected with Christianity. Some of the best known of his works perhaps are “The City of God,” and “Confessions”. The words quoted as his in the Article are taken from a Commentary on St. John’s Gospel. The whole passage runs thus, “He who does not abide in Christ, and in whom Christ does not abide, without doubt neither spiritually chews His flesh nor drinks His blood, although he carnally and visibly presses with his teeth the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; but rather chews and drinks the Sacrament of so great a thing unto his own condemnation.”
Whether, as some contend this passage from Augustine is an interpolation and therefore did not proceed from the pen of that Father, or not, according to the vigorous defense of the Archbishop, the contention is of very little moment. If Augustine wrote the words, they prove that Transubstantiation had no countenance from one of Rome’s most revered saints, nay, rather that Transubstantiation is a new and strange doctrine, for if it had been accepted as a doctrine of the Church at the time, one of her greatest luminaries at any rate knows nothing about it!
If he did not write them, the position of the English Church on the doctrine is unchanged, for by the words of the Article on the subject all loyal Churchmen are bound, whether the sentiments are those of Augustine or not. If so, how far-reaching the import of the words.
To what, then, does the teaching of the Article commit us as Churchmen? First and foremost, it knows nothing of any change whatever in the elements. The Bread and Wine are the Sacrament, symbol, or sign of the Body and Blood of Christ, and do not, therefore, contain His Body and Blood in any shape or form, either by transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or by a transcendental spiritual indwelling of the glorified Christ in the elements; for to admit any of these notions would be to destroy the nature of a sacrament, and to turn the sign into the thing signified.
Hence to hold that any change whatever takes place in the elements after consecration is to hold what the Church of England in her recognized Canons of teaching does not hold.
In the next place we are taught that not only the wicked and ungodly are in no wise partakers of Christ when they eat and drink the sign of the body and blood of Christ, but also that those who are without that faith in Christ that makes men spiritually alive, do not in any way receive Christ into themselves, in spite of the fact that they subject to the process of mastication the elements which represent the body and blood of Christ.
We learn in the third place that the Table of the Lord is no place for the ungodly or the nominal Christian. Christ is not conveyed into the soul of the recipient just because the consecrated elements are received. They are not a charm, and do not necessarily convey grace to those who partake of them as is so frequently taught now; and if any one comes to the Table in the vain hope that the elements will bring him Christ and save his soul, that man is under a dangerous delusion; he is bringing a judgment on himself, for he is superstitiously regarding the bread and wine as vehicles of grace, when they are but signs of the great and glorious atonement of His Saviour, which in his heart he is rejecting through unbelief.
This being so, what becomes of the mystery and parade and extravagant ritual, nay, downright idolatry, in connection with the simple ordinance of the Lord’s Supper which is common in so many of our churches today? It all proceeds from an entirely wrong view of the Sacrament, which teaches that when the words of the consecration are said, of necessity, Christ is present in the elements. If He be there indeed, all else, naturally follows. We must bow to the Table, we must deck it with flowers, and candles, and crosses, and ornamental trappings; we must worship the bread and the wine, we must adorn the chancel; we must burn a lamp before the sacred place; we must separate the Holy Place by chancel screens; we must keep out the defiling multitude; we must regard with veneration the individual who has this wondrous power of calling down the Saviour into the Bread and Wine! No honour which we can pay to the God-inhabited bread can be too extravagant.
But regard the ordinance as Scripture regards it, as our Church in her Articles and Liturgies regards it; and all is simple and plain. The bread and wine remain in their very natural substances. True, they are set apart solemnly to represent the body and blood of Christ; but they do not convey grace ex opere operato (i.e., simply because they are received). If any one comes and receives them under the impression that he must of necessity receive Christ in them he is grievously mistaken. They are means of grace to the true. Christian only. To such an one who believes that the atoning death of his Saviour has put away his sins, the bread which he eats is a partaking of the body of Christ, and the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. In other words, the true believer, and the true believer alone, gets any good from the ordinance; to him the bread and wine speak of the atoning death of Christ, and as he partakes he knows and feels – just as if the Saviour Himself were assuring him of the fact – that his sins are forgiven, and that he is an heir of everlasting glory through the merits of that precious blood-shedding. In fact, it may be said with perfect truth in a figurative and spiritual sense, but in no other, that he eats the flesh of Christ and drinks His blood.
These may be arranged under the following headings:–
1. The wicked and those without lively faith get no good from the Sacrament.
“If a man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his.” Rom. 8:9.
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36.
2. They eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing to their own condemnation.
“Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. ... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” 1 Cor. 11:27, 29.
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; ye cannot be partaker of the Lord’s Table and the table of devils.” 1 Cor. 10:21.
Questions on Article XXIX.
1. By whom and when was this Article drawn up? Why was it added?
2. Who is the Augustine here mentioned?
3. Show the importance and significance of the words “in no wise”.
4. Point out the importance of the Article at the present time.
Article XXX – Of Both Kinds.
“The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay people; for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament by Christ’s ordinance and commandment ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.”
Remarks on the Article.
This Article, equally with the preceding, may be described as a corollary of Article XXVIII, and, like it, was added by Archbishop Parker.
This last fact shows us with what intensity of opposition and abhorrence the erroneous doctrine of Transubstantiation was regarded by the Elizabethan Divines. Not only do we find our Church, as in Article XXVIII, giving a direct statement in denial of the doctrine, but the doctrine is again taken up in Article XXIX to be denied with greater emphasis still; and now again in the Article under consideration, the subject is once more before us; and its contrariety to the Word of God proved through the unscriptural character of a practice arising from it.
According to the received Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation we have already seen (see Reading XXXVIII) the whole Christ, body, soul, and divinity is present in the wafer, or any crumb of the wafer, immediately after the words of consecration are pronounced. This being so we can easily see why it is that Church denies the cup to the laity. The partaker of the bread has received the whole Christ, what need is there for him to partake of the wine?
That the denial of the cup to the laity arose from the acceptance of the doctrine of transubstantiation seems clear historically; for the practice became usual just about the time when this doctrine got a firm hold of the whole Western Church.
Cardinal Bona, [See Boultbee, p. 265.] in writing on the subject, says that the faithful always and in all places, from the very first foundation of the Church to the twelfth century, were used to communicate under the species of bread and wine. And in the beginning of that century the use of the cup began by little and little to be laid aside, whilst many of the bishops interdicted the people the use of the cup, for fear of irreverence and effusion. And what they did at first for their own churches was afterwards confirmed by a canonical sanction in the Council of Constance (A.D. 1414–1418). Hence we see on the authority of a dignitary of the Roman Church itself, that the practice of the denial of the cup to the laity came to be adopted just about the same time that Transubstantiation [The term was first used at Lateran Council of 1215.] came into vogue, and not only this, but we learn on the same authority that it – like all the peculiar doctrines and practices of the Church of Rome – so far from being ancient, primitive, and Catholic, is altogether new and strange; for more than a thousand years had passed away before it was adopted.
Although the denial of the cup to the laity had been received as a universal practice for some 300 years, it did not obtain public sanction at the hands of the Church until the commencement of the fifteenth century. There were many who felt it was a thoroughly unscriptural practice, and protested against it, notably our own Wycliffe (1320–1384). In fact it was owing to the protest of John Huss, the Bohemian Reformer, that the Council of Constance – doomed to everlasting infamy for its wicked dictum that no faith is to be kept with heretics – first made the practice binding by one of its Canons on the whole Church. There was much discussion on the subject amongst Romanists at the time of the Reformation, and it was in the teeth of much opposition from Romanists themselves that the Council of Trent with difficulty succeeded in confirming the decree of Constance.
The Bohemians who rose against the decrees of the Council of Constance – which had so cruelly and treacherously put to death their leaders John Huss and Jerome of Prague in spite of the fact of the Emperor’s promise of a safe conduct – demanded the cup, and were hence, from the Greek word meaning cup (calyx), called Calixtines.
As a specimen of the way in which the practice is defended by the Church of Rome; it may be interesting to know what was said in its favour by the of Trent. It tells us (Cap. I) that Christ instituted the supper under both kinds, but did not make both binding on all the faithful. Also that in John 6 Christ varied the expression, sometimes saying eating and drinking, sometimes eating only: Cap. II, that this is a matter which the Church has power to regulate. according to the text, “Let a man so account of us as stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Cap. III; That under either species the whole and entire Christ is received, and that therefore the communicant under one kind only is not defrauded.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent (ii, iv; 63) thus gives the reason for the denial of the cup.
1. To avoid spilling the blood.
2. Because wine reserved might turn acid.
3. Because some cannot bear the taste or smell of wine.
4. Because in some countries wine is very scarce,
5. In order more plainly to oppose the heresy of those who deny that the whole Christ is contained under either species.
From all these things we can see plainly that the false doctrine of Transubstantiation was at the root of the practice, and are no longer surprised that our Reformers deemed the subject worthy of a separate Article.
How simple and majestic and decisive its words! The practice must be wrong, for it is contrary to the command of Christ who plainly ordered both parts of the Sacrament to be administered to all alike. As of the Jews, so of Rome it may be truly said, “Full well ye reject the commandments of God that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:9.
It would seem as if the Lord – as in the case of Mariolatry and so many false doctrines – had specially provided against this practice. In giving the cup He says, with special emphasis, “Drink ye all,” as if He realized the fact that the cup would be denied to some, and would warn men beforehand against so doing.
Taking all things into consideration then, it is no trifling thing that the Church of Rome has done in the matter. She first invents the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and then to maintain it she has recourse to disobedience to a distinct command of Christ in order to maintain it, and in so doing she is not only guilty of one very grievous sin, but of another equally grievous also, for in denying the cup, which so clearly represents the blood-shedding of the Lord, and so emphatically shows forth His death, she obscures, and throws into the background, the important foundation truth of our faith, that without shedding of blood there is no remission, and that it is the blood or atoning death of Christ that has obtained us that remission, and makes atonement for our souls.
“And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it” (i.e., all of you drink it). Matt. 26:27.
“And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank of it.” Mark 14:23.
St. Paul is speaking of the whole Church when he says, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” 1 Cor. 11:26.
Questions on Article XXX.
1. When did the Romish practice arise of denying the cup to the laity?
2. When was the practice confirmed?
3. What Reformers protested against it? Who were the Calixtines?
4. What reasons does the Council of Trent give for denying the cup to the laity?
5. What doctrine do they obscure by so doing, and how do they go against the Scriptures?
Article XXXI – Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
“The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.”
Remarks on the Article.
The teaching of this Article, as may be seen at a glance, is diametrically opposed to that of the Church of Rome; so that those who in the present day are fond of declaring that the Church of England and the Church of Rome are one on all fundamental points, are, it must be presumed, either willfully misrepresenting the case, or are culpably ignorant of the teaching of the Church of England distinctly and unequivocally expressed in the thirty-nine articles of religion, her authorized confession of faith.
We have read what the Church of England holds on the subject of the finished work of Christ; now let us hear the Roman doctrine on the matter, laid down for us in the Canons of the Council of Trent. If, on comparing the two statements, we come to the conclusion that the doctrines of the two Churches are one and the same, then all that can be said is either that words have no meaning, or may mean anything at all.
As recorded in Cap. II, of Session XXII, we find the Council of Trent thus expressing itself; “Since the same Christ who once offered Himself by His blood on the altar of the cross is contained in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, and offered without blood, the holy council teaches that this sacrifice is really propitiatory, and made by Christ Himself. ... For assuredly God is appeased by this oblation, bestows grace and the gift of repentance, and forgives all crimes and sins how great soever; for the sacrifice which is now offered by the ministry of the priests is one and the same as that which Christ then offered on the cross, only the mode of offering is different. And the fruits of that bloody oblation are plentifully enjoyed by means of this unbloody one; so untrue is it that the latter derogates from the glory of the former, wherefore it is properly offered, according to apostolic tradition, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfaction and other necessities of living believers but also for the dead in Christ, who are not yet thoroughly purified.” Again Canon I says, “If any man shall affirm that a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God in the Mass, or that nothing else is offered save that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema. Canon III is thus expressed, “If any one shall affirm that the sacrifice of the Mass is only one of praise and thanksgiving, or a bare commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the cross, but not propitiatory; or that it only profits the receiver, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema.” And lastly, as if the Council could not be emphatic enough on the subject, Canon IV says, “If any man shall affirm that the most holy sacrifice of Christ finished on the cross is blasphemed by the sacrifice of the Mass, or that the latter derogates from it, let him be anathema.”
From these two statements on the subject taken from the authorized confession of the two Churches, we see that they are as the poles asunder on the most vital doctrine of the gospel, viz., the finished work of Christ, and considering that the one statement is based on Scripture, and that the other has no support whatever in the Word of God, we can easily justify the strong statements of our Reformers to the effect that the Church of Rome has erred not only in manner of living an ceremonies, but also in matters of faith,” and their characterization of her errors in the Article under consideration as “blasphemous figments and pernicious impostures”. The Latin version runs thus “blasphema figmenta et perniciosae imposturae.”
In order that we may have a clear understanding of the matter under consideration in the Article, it may be well to explain what the Roman doctrine of the Mass is. The name is said to be derived from the Latin expression “Missa est,” [The whole phrase is “congregatio missa est.”] which was used in early times to dismiss the congregation after the Lord’s Supper had been administered, and simply means “The assembly is dismissed.”
The service just concluded with these words then came to be called “Missa,” which in English got corrupted into the word “Mass”. Hence the term itself originally gives no clue as to the nature of the service just concluded. In process of time the Lord’s Supper became corrupted through the invention of the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
After the words of consecration had been uttered, “This is my body,” “This is my blood,” it was believed that Christ himself, body, soul, and divinity came into the bread and into the wine, and their substance was changed while the accidents or appearance, taste, etc., remained.
The wafer changed into Christ known as the Host (Hostia = victim) was then offered up on the Altar, as the Table soon began to be called, as a sacrifice for the sins of the priest and the congregation; it was then exposed to the people to be adored or worshipped and then eaten by the priest, and then the wine was drunk by him. Non-communicating attendance on the part of the laity was then encouraged, it being supposed that the sacrifice offered up by the priest and partaken of by him was sufficient, and that the people present, through the sacrifice and participation, had their sins forgiven and became partakers with Christ, and so the Lord’s Supper from being a simple memorial to believers of His precious death until His coming again was changed into a propitiatory sacrifice through the figment of transubstantiation, and came to be regarded as a repetition of the one sacrifice once offered on the Cross for our Redemption.
Then arose the notion that from the constant offering of this sacrifice the merits of Christ’s death could be continually applied to the necessities not only of the living, but of dead souls in Purgatory, and for hundreds of years past in the Roman Church this error had been in vogue, and in every Romanist Church every day this sacrifice of Christ, as they dare to call it, is offered up by the priest in charge for the sins of himself and the congregation; and not only this, but members of that Church are encouraged to give money that Masses may be offered up in large numbers for their own sins, and in order to lessen the pains and penalties in Purgatory of themselves, and those in whom they are interested.
In this way the Roman Church obtains immense revenues, as devout Catholics are encouraged to contribute largely of their substance for Masses for themselves and others, and also to leave large sums to be expended on Masses for the repose of their souls when dead.
The price of these precious wares differs in different places; and it is to be presumed in accordance with the wealth or poverty of the buyer; it is said that a shilling will purchase a Mass in Ireland.
Owing to the regulation that not more than one Mass can be said a day by each Priest, it becomes difficult sometimes to get the proper amount said, such a demand is there for them; and so much money is there left continually for the purpose by devotees of that Church. This has led to the plan, in Canada at any rate, of underselling them to priests in France, who undertake to offer them – if offer them they do, which would seem an impossibility all things considered – for a good deal less than was originally left for the purpose. [See “Fifty Years in the Church of Rome,” by Father Chiniquy.]
Seeing the awful blasphemy of the whole system of delusion and deceit, still flourishing as unchecked as ever, it is no wonder that the Reformers have insisted as they have done in this Article, and in the service for Holy Communion on the Scriptural fact that Christ offered Himself once for all, and by that offering has done everything necessary to satisfy God in the way of propitiation and redemption for the sins of the whole world; and that no other satisfaction is needed, nor can be made. Nor are we in the least surprised at the very strong condemnation with which the Article closes of the shocking and iniquitous traffic in Masses based on a wicked fable, that is carried on in the Church of Rome; and which, moreover, to our unutterable shame and confusion, is being fast reintroduced into our Protestant Church of England, by thousands of clergymen who have sworn to abide by the teaching of the thirty-nine Articles.
These may be thus arranged:–
1. The offering of Christ cannot be repeated.
“Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest entereth into the Holy place every year with blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Heb. 9:25, 26.
2. The offering of Christ was a perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin of all kinds.
“By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Heb. 10:14.
“The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7.
3. Christ’s sacrifice was for the sin of the whole world.
“Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.
“If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father,” Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1, 2.
Questions on Article XXXI.
1. What is the derivation of the words “Mass,” “Host”?
2. What is the Latin for and the exact translation of the words “blasphemous fables” and “dangerous deceits”?
3. Show the fundamental difference between our Church and Rome on the subject of the “one offering of Christ”.
4. Give the teaching of the Council of Trent on the Sacrifice of the Mass.
5. Explain the traffic in Masses now carried on by the Church of Rome, and its abuses.
Article XXXXI – Of the Marriage of Priests.
“Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are not commanded by God’s law either to avow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful also for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.”
Remarks on the Article.
Exception has sometimes been taken to the Latin title of this Article “De conjugio sacerdotum” (concerning the marriage of priests) on the ground that the word “sacerdos” means a sacrificing priest, and that therefore our Articles seem to teach what is generally known as sacerdotalism, i.e., a religion of which the ministers are true sacrificing priests. But it must be remembered that the Article has to do with the marriage of all ministers, bishops, priests, and deacons alike, and that no one word at the time the Articles were drawn up could have been chosen to embrace all grades, save the one used, which in common parlance meant very much what we mean by clergy as opposed to laity. Also we need not suppose that by the use of the word our reformers intended to convey the idea that the presbyters or priests of Our Church are to be regarded as sacrificers; for she specifies others under the title, viz., bishops and deacons, the latter of whom are not allowed even in the Romish Church to offer the sacrifice of the Mass – but simply use the word which would intimate to all readers of the time that they meant clergy as opposed to the lay people.
As to the subject matter of the Article – at a very early period in the history of the Church the idea gained ground, introduced from heathen sources, that the celibate state was more holy than that of married people. Before the advent of our Lord, one of the Jewish sects, the Essenes, a sort of ascetic order, who lived a retired life in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, practiced celibacy, having in all probability been influenced by Buddhism, which teaches that the highest Purity can only be obtained by those who abstain from marriage; and that holiness consists in rigorous mortifications of the body and in depriving it of all pleasurable sensations, whether lawful or unlawful, on the false principle that evil dwells in the matter of which the body is composed, and not in the spiritual part of man, and that if you keep down the body by austerities you are crucifying or mortifying the flesh or self-principle.
This error early crept into the Church, and Paul had to fight it at Colossae. There were ascetics there who misled the converts by telling them they must deprive the body of all its lawful indulgences even, if they would be holy; “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” said they. Paul corrects this error by pointing them to the finished work of Christ as the grand satisfaction for sin, and to the power of the risen Christ living in them which would control the self-principle, and keep it down, while he tells them that a rigorous treatment of the body relied on in itself as a power against desire, was of no honour or value to check the indulgence of the self-principle or lust of the flesh.
But in spite of apostolic warnings and advice the error grew and flourished, and as early as the third century lonely places such as the neighbourhood of Jericho, and Sinai, and the Nitrian Desert in Egypt were full of fanatical hermits, men and women, who went out of the world as they fondly thought, to work out their own salvation in solitude and asceticism under the impression that sin and self could thus be conquered and holiness attained; but only to find that instead of peace and serenity they were assailed by temptations tenfold as great and fierce as would have met them had they not attempted to be wise above what was written in God’s Word, and instead of going out of the world, kept in the world, and fulfilled, through faith in the finished work of Christ and the guidance of the Spirit, the ordinary duties of life.
The idea of the unholiness of the married state as compared with the celibate grew and grew, and so took hold of the popular mind that it was soon commonly held that those set apart for the Ministry of the Church could not possibly fulfill their sacred duties if they were married. So that at the Council of Illiberis in Spain in the year 305 A.D., a Canon was actually passed prohibiting the marriage of the clergy.
At the Council of Nice, the first general Council in 325 A.D., a decree to enforce celibacy on the clergy was proposed, but strange to say through the advocacy of a monk, a professed celibate who spoke strongly against it, the decree was not carried.
After this there was a struggle for centuries, the opposition being due to the popular feeling, which, led by the wire-pulling of the Papacy, undoubtedly attributed superior efficacy and sanctity to an unmarried clergy. Gregory VII, generally known as Hildebrand (A.D. 1074), was of the Popes the most determined opponent of the marriage of the clergy, and by his order celibacy seems first to have been effectually imposed upon them.
Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (960 A.D.),formerly Abbot of Glastonbury, was the great advocate of celibacy in England, and took very violent measures to enforce it, such as turning out married clergy from their livings and putting in monks in their place.
It was finally enforced in England by Archbishop Anselm, A.D. 1108. The practice, as the history of the Church before the Reformation plainly shows, and that of the Romish Church as plainly since, is fraught with most direful consequences. Immorality, as one might naturally expect, of the grossest kind, fanned and fed by the filth of the confessional, was, and is most common among the priests. Sodom and Gomorrah were pure compared with the monasteries at the time of the Reformation. And considering what is known of the state of monasteries and convents from authentic accounts at, and long before the time of the Reformation, and the accounts that are given of them by ex-monks and nuns nowadays, and that human nature is the same as it ever was, it seems a strange thing that in the interests of public morality such places should be allowed to exist in England with absolutely no supervision on the part of the Government.
The Council of Trent absolutely and entirely prohibits the marriage of priests. Canon IX of Session XXIV anathematized all who affirm that persons in Holy Orders, or regulars, i.e., monks, friars, nuns, who have made a solemn profession of chastity may contract marriage.
The Greek Church requires marriage as a qualification for the priesthood, but does not permit a priest who is a widower to remarry, so interpreting 1 Tim. 3:22. No bishops of the Greek Church may be married men, hence they are usually chosen from the monasteries.
It is supposed with much probability that one of the reasons why the Romish Church is so averse to the marriage of her priests is that she feels that married men are not so likely to be so devotedly attached to the Papacy as unmarried. Celibacy isolates the clergy from the ordinary interests and associations of their fellow countrymen, and fits them better to be the willing instruments of a foreign power. It proves a very useful arrangement, too, in the case of a scandal arising. A priest who has got into trouble in one neighbourhood can very easily, if he has no legal wife and family dependent on him, be shifted off to the ends of the earth at a moment’s notice. Calmly and majestically as usual, the Article refers to the law of God as opposed to the tradition of men, and tells us that bishops, priests, and deacons, according to the Bible, are not ordered to make vows of celibacy, or to remain unmarried, and that they, like all other Christian men, are to marry at their own discretion, as they are of opinion that the one state or the other will make for their highest good.
“Marriage is honourable in all.” Heb. 13:4.
“Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as the brethren of the Lord and Cephas?” 1 Cor. 9:5.
“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” 1 Tim. 3:12.
“That thou shouldest ordain elders in every city as I had appointed thee; if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children.” Titus 1:5, 6.
Questions on Article XXXII.
1. What have you to say of the Latin title of this Article?
2. Whence is the idea of the superiority of the celibate condition derived?
3. When did it first appear in the Church?
4. When and where was the marriage of the clergy first prohibited?
5. What happened at the Council of Nice?
6. What eminent ecclesiastics enforced celibacy in Rome and England?
7. What has the Council of Trent to say on the subject?
8. What is the practice of the Greek Church?
9. Give some reasons why the Roman Church advocates celibacy of the clergy.
Article XXXIII – Of Excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.
“That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful as an heathen and publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received, into the Church by a judge that hath authority thereunto.”
Remarks on the Article.
It will be observed at once that this Article is very wisely framed.
While on the one hand it upholds the principle of excommunication in order to preserve the purity of the community as much as possible, it is careful also to protect the principle from abuse by saying that no excommunication is valid unless carried out in a legal and formal manner by the judge appointed for the purpose. Before the Reformation excommunication was a very formidable weapon in the hands of the Pope, and it was expected that the State would support the sentence, and subject the one excommunicated to civil disabilities, even – if required by the ecclesiastical authorities – to death by burning.
All this was changed at the Reformation, when the Papal supremacy was cast off and it was accepted as an axiom that “the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England,” Article XXXVII.
But just as with so many other things, while the abuses connected with the practice were cleared away, the practice itself was retained, but so carefully guarded, that it should not become an engine of persecution and tyranny.
Now it is manifest that every society must have its laws and regulations for the guidance of its members, and that if those laws and regulations are persistently broken, those who have the management of the society must have authority to disconnect those members who will not conform to the Rules. This is a principle which is generally recognized in all secular concerns.
So with reference to the Christian community, it is manifest that the same principle must be upheld; if discipline and order, and the well-being generally of the community is to be maintained.
Our Lord Himself evidently intended that matters should be so arranged. For He tells us that if in certain cases the Members of the Church will not submit themselves they are to be regarded as heathen and publicans, in other words as no longer members of the community, i.e., they are as a matter of fact excommunicated. Bearing our Lord’s words in mind the Reformers framed this article so as to preserve discipline among the members of the Church of England – and in so doing they have only done what other religious societies are in the habit of doing for the preservation of purity and order in their midst.
A lawful ecclesiastical judge, sitting in open court alone has power under this Article to pronounce sentence of excommunication on any one who has been duly, i.e., legally, proved to be guilty of such offences as are liable to the punishment of excommunication.
What those offences are we gather from the Canons, a body of Rules published in 1603 by His Majesty’s authority under the great seal of England, and which constitute what is called the Canon Law of the Church of England to this day.
On reference to those Canons we find that the sentence of excommunication can be lawfully pronounced for various crimes. Amongst them “notorious contumacy or other notable crimes” are mentioned (Can. 65).
The first twelve Canons also deal with offenders who can be lawfully punished with excommunication. We find for instance that Impugners of the King’s supremacy; Impugners of the Church of England as a true and apostolic Church; Impugners of the public worship of God established in the Church of England; Impugners of the Articles of Religion. Impugners of the rites and ceremonies established in the Church of England; Impugners of the government of the Church of England by Archbishops, Bishops, etc; Impugners of the form of consecrating and ordering Archbishops, Bishops, etc.; authors of schism in the Church of England; maintainers of schismatics; maintainers of conventicles; maintainers of constitutions made in [It should be noted however that many of these Canons are now obsolete and even contrary to law.] conventicles – are all declared ipso facto excommunicate, i.e., the punishment for the crimes of such offenders if brought home to them is nothing less than excommunication or expulsion for the time being from the Assembly of the faithful, which practically means that they are not permitted to come to the Lord’s Table as long as they maintain their errors.
According to Canon 26 it is the duty of churchwardens, or sidesmen to report those guilty of any of these errors to the Bishop that he may proceed against them in due and legal form.
We are now in a position to understand the meaning of the Article. It is simply intended for the maintenance of proper discipline in the Church.
It tells us that if any person has been rightly, i.e., in due and legal Form in the Bishops’ Court proved as having been guilty of any offences, for which excommunication is the legal punishment, and as such has been pronounced by the Bishop or Judge an excommunicate person; then all the members of the congregation to which he belongs, yea, all the faithful everywhere ought to regard him as what he is declared by the sentence to he, viz., a heathen and a publican, i.e., as having no more part nor lot with the Christian assembly than if he were what our Lord calls a heathen man or publican. In other words, all ought to avoid giving him countenance in any way. He is to be shunned by Christians as one in disgrace.
And this course of treatment is to be adopted towards him by his fellow-Christians, until in a proper and formal manner, in the presence of the congregation and the Bishop, he has publicly revoked his wicked errors, by expressing sorrow and contrition for them, and the intention that he will not again adopt them; and has then been formally received back as a Member of the Church by a judge that has authority thereunto, presumably the Bishop or his legal representative.
It should be noticed that the word “penance” used in the Article has nothing to do with the Romish Sacrament of that name. That has been plainly repudiated in Article XXV. Neither does it mean here the same as “repentance” or “change of mind,” but the punishment imposed by the ecclesiastical judge as a satisfaction to the offended community. Long after the Reformation it was publicly imposed and publicly fulfilled. Penance here is a legal term, not a theological.
It may be noticed in conclusion that ample means for maintaining discipline have been put by our Reformers into the hands of the Church of England. They have declared plainly what are the offences for which excommunication is the lawful punishment. They have given the Church-wardens power to report those guilty of those offences to the Bishop; and to the Bishop they have given the power of pronouncing sentence. So that we must conclude that if such offences go unchecked, as unchecked they do, the fault lies not with the constitution of the Church, but with those who while they have ample powers given them under that constitution yet fail to use them.
These may be conveniently arranged under three headings.
1. The Church has power to excommunicate.
“But if he will not hear thee then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Matt. 18:16, 17.
“A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Titus 3:10, 11.
2. How excommunicated people are to be regarded.
“Now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat. Do not ye judge them that are within? Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” 1 Cor. 5:11–13.
“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man and have no company with him that he may be ashamed.” 2 Thess. 3:14.
3. Excommunicate persons to be restored after repentance.
“Sufficient to such a man is this punishment which was inflicted of many, so that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him lest perhaps such an one should be swallowed up by overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love towards him.” 2 Cor. 2:6, 7, 8.
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” Gal. 6:1.
Questions on Article XXXIII.
1. Defend the principle of excommunication.
2. What were the penalties attaching to Papal excommunication?
3. Who has the right to excommunicate in the Church of England?
4. For what offences are men liable to excommunication?
5. Whose duty is it to impugn such offenders?
6. Explain the use of the word “penance”.
Article XXXIV – Of the Traditions of the Church.
“It is not necessary that Traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to he rebuked openly (that others may fear to do the like), as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
“Every particular or National Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church, ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have three distinct principles laid down in this Article, the object of which is evidently the justification of the Reformers in their separation from the Church of Rome, and in the formation of a National Church altogether independent of the Pope.
The first of these principles is to the effect that uniformity of liturgy or ceremony is not a necessity in the Christian Church.
The second insists upon the necessity of uniformity in such matters when once traditions and ceremonies have been agreed upon.
The third boldly claims for each particular or national Church the right to settle what rites and ceremonies shall be employed.
As to the first principle – in early times there had been great diversities in the various forms of service and ceremonies that obtained in various countries and towns. For instance, the method of observing Easter was different in the Eastern part of the Empire to what it was in the Western. The form of service, too, differed in various places. The Liturgy used in Alexandria, for instance, was different from that used in Rome. In process of time as Rome gradually assumed to herself the position of mistress of all the Churches, she insisted that a rigid uniformity in such matters should obtain as far as possible all over the world, more especially in the sacrifice of the Mass which must be celebrated exactly in the same way and accompanied with the same ceremonies throughout the world, otherwise it is invalid.
To this rigid and uncompromising claim to uniformity of liturgy and ceremony, our Reformers give answer, that such a state of things is not in the least necessary; for at all times they have been different; the reference here is evidently to things that obtained in the early ages of the Church, and even up to the time of the Reformation. For instance almost every diocese, in England had differences in the ritual of the various “Uses” as they were called. The “Use of Sarum,” or Salisbury, differed from the “Use of York,” and so on. This being the case, the principle is established that these things are not of the essence of Christianity, and therefore may be changed in accordance with the various differences that exist in connection with the varieties of countries, times, and customs. The people of one country differ from those of another. What is suitable to one does not commend itself to another. Then times differ. What was suited to one age is not suited to the next. Men’s customs and manners differ, and what was suitable a hundred years ago becomes obsolete and unfitted for the new age with its different ideas. The forms and ceremonies that suited one age become absurd and antiquated to that which succeeds it. This being so the Reformers laid down the great and important principle that Churches are at liberty to change such things if they think fit; the only proviso being that whatever in such matters is agreed upon must not be contrary to the Word of God. In accordance with this principle they took it in hand to bring out the Book of Common Prayer in the English tongue, and to arrange the various ceremonies that should be used in connection with the various services contained therein.
As to the second principle put forward in the Article, they are careful to make it plain that while Churches have a corporate power of arranging such matters, the individual members of those Churches have no business to ignore or make light of such arrangements. When once such matters are arranged there ought to be uniformity in the observance of them. No man – that is of course no one belonging to the community in question – has a right to set up his private judgment in such matters. No one – and of course here ministers are chiefly intended – has any business of set purpose or intention, to disregard and set at defiance such arrangements in the way of Liturgy and Ritual as are not repugnant to the Word of God, and have the approval of those set apart for the purpose of arranging them. Such an one, the Article goes on to tell us, if he refuses in conducting Divine Service to conform to the prescribed words and method ought to be publicly rebuked. The reference here is probably to the citations and excommunications mentioned in the rubric in the communion service preceding the offertory sentences, in order that others may be deterred from doing a similar thing. And the reason for such a punishment is that the man by such conduct is an offender against the order of the Church, which is meant to be the rule of all the community; he brings the authority of the magistrate into contempt, referring to the civil sanction which these traditions and ceremonies have received at the hands of the State; and finally leads unestablished Christians to follow his example, and so do things against their conscience, and for which their conscience will reprove them.
As to the third great principle, we are told in the face of the Pope’s claim that all such things are for him to arrange, that each particular or national Church, such of course as the Church of Germany, Scotland, France – as opposed to the one outward visible Church of which the Bishop of Rome claims to be the head, and outside of which, according to him, there is no other – has authority from time to time to prescribe, alter or do away with any solemn ordinances, or methods of celebrating those ordinances connected with the celebration of Divine Service which have only the authority of man to sanction them. The only proviso being that all things shall be done with a view to the highest interests of all concerned.
This principle would, of course, be based on the large liberty which is evidently accorded everywhere in the New Testament by the Apostles as to the conduct of Divine Worship. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find hard and fast directions as to liturgical and ritual arrangements. Hints are given here and there, but quite in the spirit of the new religion of liberty inaugurated by the Redeemer; details as to the liturgical and ceremonial matters are not to be found, but are left to the discretion apparently of the various Christian Communities. The one great principle seems to be – capable of course of manifold application – “let all things be done decently and in order. God is not the author of confusion but of peace.”
Although it is to be surmised from the state of things obtaining at the time of the Reformation that only a national Church is in the view of the compilers of this Article, yet from the wise and temperate language employed, so noticeable in the wording of all the Articles, it adapts itself thoroughly to the altered circumstances of later times, so that while accepting everything it says as applicable to a National Church, we are not bound by its teaching to unchurch all the different Denominations which, with their various and orderly Church Polities, have arisen since.
These may be arranged conveniently as follows: –
1. Liberty as to Traditions and Ceremonies.
“And he went into the synagogue and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the kings concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from then, and separated the disciples disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.” Acts 19:8, 9.
“One believeth that he may eat all things – another who is weak eateth herbs – one man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike.” Rom. 14:2, 5.
2. Non-conformity to established order culpable.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.” Heb. 13:17.
“Take heed lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. ... When ye sin so against the weak brethren and wound their weak consciences ye sin against Christ.” 1 Cor. 8:9, 12.
3. The authority of Churches to settle nonessentials for themselves.
“No man putteth new wine into old bottles; or else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.” Luke 5:37.
“Verily I say unto you whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 18:18.
Questions on Article XXXIV.
1. What three principles are set forth in this Article?
2. Give examples of divergence in the liturgies of the Churches.
3. Show the necessity of change according to the diversities of countries, times and men’s manners,
4. Give arguments in support of the second principle laid down in the Article.
5. Against what is the third principle directed? What support does the Article receive from the conduct of the Apostles and founders of Churches?
Article XXXV – Of The Homilies.
“The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles where of we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former book of Homilies which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.
“Of the Names of the Homilies.
“1. Of the right use of the Church.
“2. Against peril of Idolatry.
“3. Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
“4. Of good Works ; first of Fasting.
“5. Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
“6. Against excess of Apparel.
“7. Of Prayer.
“8. Of the time and place of Prayer.
“9. That common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
“10. Of the reverent estimation of God’s Word.
“11. Of Almsgiving,
“12. Of the Nativity of Christ.
“13. Of the Passion of Christ.
“14. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
“15. Of the worthy receiving the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“16. Of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
“17. For the Rogation Days.
“18. Of the state of Matrimony.
“19. Of Repentance.
“20. Against Idleness.
“21. Against Rebellion.”
Remarks on the Article.
We have now arrived at Part V of the Articles, including XXXV, XXXVI, and XXXVII, which treat of regulations affecting the Church of England in particular.
The word “Homily” means a familiar discourse explanatory of a text or passage of Scripture, and is merely a Greek word transliterated. As may be gathered from the Article under consideration, two books of Homilies were issued in Reformation times. The first was set forth in the year 1547, the first, year of King Edward the Sixth. Some of the sermons composing it were written by Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, who were burned to death in the next reign at the instigation of Bonner, Bishop of London, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, with the approval and sanction of Queen Mary. To such a book must, therefore, necessarily attach, in the eyes of all lovers of our Protestant and Reformed Church of England, a most solemn and sacred interest.
It contains truths for the maintenance of which its authors boldly and willingly laid down their lives. Well it would be for us if preaching of the same scriptural, fearless, uncompromising and trumpet-toned description, as is contained therein, were more frequently heard in all the pulpits of our land, both in church and chapel! Were this the case, erroneous and false doctrine would shrink away ashamed, and God’s holy, pure, and life-giving truth would soon be known and loved by myriads in our country, who are perishing for lack of knowledge.
The First Book of the Homilies is referred to in Article XI, where it is said of justification by faith that it is a wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification. On looking over the list of names in the first book, we see none bearing the name of the Homily of Justification, or in fact any whose title in the least resembles it. For on reference to the list of those contained in the first book, we find the names as follows:–
“1. A fruitful exhortation to the reading of Holy Scripture.
“2. Of the misery of all mankind.
“3. Of the salvation of all mankind.
“4. Of the true and lively faith.
“5. Of good works.
“6. Of Christian love and charity.
“7. Against swearing and perjury.
“8. Of the declining from God.
“9. An exhortation on the fear of God.
“10. An exhortation to obedience.
“11. Against whoredom and adultery.
“12. Against strife and contention.”
It is generally considered that the third in the list named, “Of the salvation of all mankind,” is the one referred to in Article XI, and such a conclusion is borne out by the fact that the whole sermon is occupied with the subject of our acceptance in the sight of God through the perfect obedience unto death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and it is, therefore, concluded that not the name but the subject matter of the Homily is referred to under the title of Homily of Justification, which means, therefore, the Homily which explains our justification in the sight of God.
The Second Book of the Homilies, whereof the names are mentioned in the Article, was published in Elizabeth’s reign in the year 1563. They are said to be mainly the work of Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, the author of that magnificent defense of the Church of England, published early in Elizabeth’s reign, known as “Jewel’s Apology.” This work, it may be said in passing, came forth with the consent of the Bishops, and with the Queen’s sanction, and is therefore to be regarded as an authoritative vindication of our Protestant Church. The Council of Trent censured it, and appointed two Divines to answer it – a task which was never executed. An answer from Harding, who had been Hebrew Professor of Oxford the reign of Henry VIII, a decided Protestant under Edward VI, but a pervert to Romanism again in Mary’s time, called forth from Jewel in 1567 “The Defence of the Apology.” At the desire of Archbishop Parker, a copy of the “Defence” was set up soon after Jewel’s death in almost every parish church in England, and fragments of it are still to be seen in some churches, together with the chain by which it was attached to the reading desk provided for it. The Apology itself is well worth the study of all those in training for Holy Orders.
To return to the Article. It is important to notice the sanction given therein to the two Books of the Homilies by our Church. No doubt in many ways owing to the old-fashioned language in which they are written, they are out of date, and thus hardly suitable for reading publicly in Church at the present time. Then, again, almost all clergy, from the time they are ordained deacons, are in the present day licensed to preach sermons of their own composition, so that the Reading of Homilies has fallen into disuse. Yet it should always be remembered, seeing that the Articles sanction them, and that the reading of them is especially directed in the Rubrics of the communion service in case there be no sermon, that preaching which is altogether opposed to the teaching of these Homilies, or which is not to a considerable extent molded on them, is not the sort of preaching that ought to be heard in the pulpits of the Church of England.
As it was said of them that they contained “a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times,” so it may well be said of them now, when the true teaching of the Church of England is being repudiated publicly by those very people who have most solemnly sworn that they will abide by it and defend it, when doctrines and practices of the corrupt Church of Rome, by the lawless sanction of those who have been appointed as overseers for the express purpose of driving away erroneous and strange doctrines, [See “Indictment of the Bishops,” published by Church Association.] are being shamelessly taught and practiced in thousands of our churches by the perjured persons who solemnly on oath have declared: “I assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer. I have determined out of the Scriptures to instruct the people committed to my charge, and to teach nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation but that which I shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by Scripture. I will be ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to the Word of God.”
Some of the most appropriate would seem to be the following:–
“So they read in the Book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the meaning.” Nehem. 8:8.
“These things teach and exhort; if any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.” 1 Tim. 6:2, 3.
“And these things” [the things which become sound doctrine] “I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” Titus 3:8.
Questions on Article XXXV.
1. What is the meaning of “Homily?
2. When and by whom was the First Book of Homilies compiled?
3. Give the titles of the First Book of Homilies.
4. What is the Homily of Justification?
5. When was the Second Book of Homilies published? What do you know of Bishop Jewel?
6. What do these Homilies show us with regard to the doctrine of the Church of England?
Article XXXVI – Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
“The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such consecration and ordering; neither hath it anything that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. And therefore, whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the second year of the forenamed King Edward unto this time, or hereafter, shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same Rites; we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.”
Remarks on the Article.
The Book of Consecration of Archbishops, Bishops, etc., mentioned at the commencement of the Article is what is generally termed “the Ordinal,” and is found printed at the end of the Prayer Book.
At the time this Article was drawn up (1552, but entirely recast in 1562) there were two classes of objectors to be reckoned with.
The first consisted of the Romanists who, familiar with the pre-Reformation form of Ordination, in which the presbyters were set apart by the presentation of a paten and chalice as sacrificing priests to offer sacrifice for the living and the dead, would regard the present Ordinal as defective.
The second consisted of a growing body, developing afterwards into what were known as the Puritans, many of whom found fault with our Ordination Service as savouring too much of what it used to be in pre-Reformation times, and also objected to episcopacy, as a form of Church government not fairly traceable to Apostolic times.
An authoritative pronouncement on the subject was therefore necessary on the part of our Reformers to the quieting of doubts, and settling of all controversy on the subject; and this the Article proceeds to give.
For those holding with the old order of things, there is the statement made that the Reformed method of ordination had the sanction of King and Parliament, and was in no respect wanting in anything essential to make the ordering and consecration of Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons valid and in order. While those who were inclined to cavil at episcopacy, and to find fault with the details of the Ordination Services as too much on the lines of the Romish Church, are reminded that the said services have the sanction of such sympathetic authority as that of King Ed ward the Sixth, backed by the consensus of the opinion of the country as represented in Parliament in a thoroughly orderly and constitutional manner; and that nothing can be found in these services which, fairly interpreted, can be regarded as objectionable, and not in accordance with the Lord’s revealed will on the subject.
And one and all are assured without any doubt that the method of ordination thus sanctioned by the King and Parliament has been formally adopted by the English Church, and that all who have been in the past, or shall be in the future ordained in accordance with it, may regard themselves as set apart for the Ministry in a proper, orderly, and lawful manner, in fact, that the validity of English orders is henceforth to be unquestioned.
Thus the Church of Rome who refuses to acknowledge the validity of our Orders gets her answer. It matters not what she thinks. The Church of England has no doubt at all on the subject; and all those holding her Orders need have no doubt either, and may rest assured that they are set apart in a perfectly valid manner, whether they be archbishops, bishops, priests, or deacons.
It is to be noticed here as in other Articles what a tolerant view the Church of England takes. While she has her own method of ordaining ministers, and, taking the Preface of the Ordinal into account, does not see her way to admitting anyone to perform the functions of a minister in her churches, who has not been ordained according to the Form in the Prayer Book, or who has not had formerly Episcopal Consecration or Ordering – she says nothing as to the validity of the Orders of other denominations; she legislates for herself, while she leaves other Churches free to make their own arrangements in the matter.
She holds most firmly that her own ministers are validly ordained, but she refrains from saying that the ministers of other denominations are not.
This perhaps may be the place to say a word on what is generally known as Apostolical Succession – and our Church’s opinion with reference to it. The regular transmission of Holy Orders from generation to generation, in Episcopal lines from the Apostles’ time to our own is usually styled Apostolical Succession. Many extreme churchmen are of opinion with the Church of Rome, that none are validly ordained unless they can through the Bishops trace back their ordination thus. The Church of England does not refer to the theory, and therefore we may conclude that she does not attach much importance to it. [See Boultbee on the “Articles,” p. 198.] Hooker, the staunch defender of the Church of England, refers to it and comes to the conclusion that for various reasons which he gives in Book vii, 14, of his “Ecclesiastical Polity,” “that we are not simply without exception to urge a lineal descent of power from the Apostles by the continual succession of Bishops in every effectual ordination.” Laud’s opinion on the subject is also interesting. In his conference with Fisher the Jesuit (§ 39, vii) he denies the necessity of continued visible succession, or the existence of any promise that it should be uninterruptedly continued in any Church. He proceeds to say, “for succession in general I shall say this; it is a great happiness where it may be had visible and continued, and a great conquest over the mutability of this present world. But I do not find any one of the ancient Fathers that makes local, personal, visible, and continued succession a necessary mark or sign of the true Church in any one place.”
From the above considerations we may unhesitatingly conclude that the Church of England does not uphold and teach what is generally known as Apostolical Succession; nowhere in her formularies does she insist that ministers to be ministers in any valid sense must be ordained by Bishops, and that those Bishops must be able to trace their spiritual descent to the Apostles. In other words, Episcopacy inherited from the Apostles is not, as it is often erroneously declared to be, one of the notes or characteristics of the visible Church as defined by the Church of England (see Article XIX).
As germane to the subject, it may be useful here to show that as the Preface to the Ordinal says, “it is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church, Bishops, Priests and Deacons.”
There is no difficulty whatever as to Deacons and Presbyters – Deacons certainly existed in Apostolic times for we have directions as to their ordination given by Paul to Timothy and Titus.
Presbyters also – for the word Priest is nothing but Presbyter abbreviated – were ordained by Paul in every city where he preached the gospel, as soon as a little company of believers was gathered in.
Now these Presbyters were sometimes called “episcopoi” i.e., bishops or overseers. See for instance Acts 20:17 as compared with Acts 20:28 where the word rendered overseers is in the original, episcopoi. Again, in proof of this assertion, Titus 1:5, may be referred to as compared with Titus 1:7. In process of time, certainly before the Apostolic age had closed, the office of Bishop seems naturally to have grown out of that of Presbyter. It seems to have been the custom to ordain several Presbyters in each community of Christians. In their meeting one would naturally preside. In process of time the office of president would become permanent, and he who held the office would be termed overseer or Bishop of the Presbyters and community generally. It was not a difference of rank or of order, but of office.
In proof of this origin of Episcopacy may be urged the fact that in the age at any rate immediately succeeding the Apostolic, every town almost where there was a community of Christians had its Bishop.
It is held by many that the first and Scriptural example of Episcopacy in the true sense of the word was James the Lord’s brother, who is found in the Acts presiding over the Church at Jerusalem, in the way in which the chairman or president of the body of elders might be expected to preside over the deliberations of a Church, in accordance with the theory of the origin of the Episcopate, as suggested above. The Apostles themselves as such were not bishops; they were missionaries. James, the Lord’s brother, was not one of the twelve, for we are told distinctly that in the Lord’s lifetime “Neither did His brethren believe on Him,” John 7:5. The first bishops, as far as can be gathered, were just presiding elders, not necessarily apostles, to whom as overseers of the other presbyters, and the Congregation generally, were gradually accorded the functions now exclusively connected with their office.
The following passages maybe quoted as showing that our ordination services are in accordance with the mind of God.
“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let them also first be proved, and let them use the office of a deacon being found blameless.” 1 Tim. 3:8, 10.
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1 Tim. 4:14.
Questions on Article XXXVI.
1. What two classes of objectors are met with in this Article?
2. In what respect does the Romish ordination of a “priest” differ from the English?
3. Show the validity of English orders.
4. What have you to say of Apostolical Succession? Give the opinions of Laud and Hooker thereon.
5. Show the Scriptural authority for the Orders of Bishop, Presbyters, and Deacons. Point out how they arose in the early Church.
6. What is the exact meaning of episcopos, presbuteros? Where do we find the titles used interchangeably?
Article XXXVII – Of the Civil Magistrates.
“The Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, and other her dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.
“Where we attribute to the Queen’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scripture by God Himself; that is that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.
“The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
“The laws of the realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
“It is lawful for Christian men at the command of the magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars.”
Remarks on the Article.
For many long centuries before the Reformation, the Bishop of Rome with his arrogant claims to be Christ’s Vicar on earth, endowed from Him through Peter the Prince of the Apostles, with absolute power over all Kings and countries of the world, had succeeded by never-ceasing and persistent efforts, which he did not scruple to support by glaring perversion of Scripture, unblushing effrontery, perpetual scheming; and the most palpable misrepresentation, falsehood, and forgery – in making the nations and Kings of Christendom think that he really possessed the absolute authority he so confidently and imperiously claimed.
As a consequence governments often found themselves thrown into utter confusion by their subjects openly recognizing an authority outside and above theirs, and by constant appeals to the Pope, who was regarded in the eyes of the majority on a level with the Lord. God Himself, they found their laws set aside, and many grievous ills and inconveniences arising, not only to the annoyance and detriment of themselves, but also to the utter overthrow of all necessary civil order.
It was in the year 1534 that this terrible incubus of Papal Supremacy was first thrown off by King and Parliament, and the sovereign was regarded from that time forward as the Head of this country both in matters civil and ecclesiastical, and the Bishop of Rome has never from that day, save during the five disastrous years of Mary, had any jurisdiction in this Realm of England. The King is supreme, and the decisions of the King’s courts are final; no subject is allowed to appeal to any power whatever outside the Kingdom. Thus the Papal yoke which pressed so heavily on the necks of all alike, both kings and people, has been for ever uplifted from our once cruelly enslaved country, unless perchance in our infatuated blindness as to what Romanism really is – which like some creeping and enervating paralysis seems to be taking possession of so many minds – we willfully and shamefully give up our hard won liberties to resume once more its galling chains, which God forbid!
The Article before us deals then with the subject of the supremacy of the civil authority, and we are expressly told, with a reference doubtless to the legislation on the subject so far back as 1534, that the Queen is the Supreme head of the kingdom. She represents in her person for the time being the chief authority in all her dominions. To her all classes of her people are subject. Her courts are to take cognizance of every matter, and from them there is no appeal. None of her subjects owe allegiance to any foreign jurisdiction, and all are bound in all matters of law and order, whether pertaining to religious or secular life, to submit themselves unconditionally to her authority.
But when all this has been said, the Article is careful to define in what the supremacy over all matters ecclesiastical and civil means.
Many, at the time the Article was drawn up, chose to misunderstand, and slanderously speak against what is generally known as the Royal Supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, and objected to it as altogether outside a Sovereign’s functions. Some held that it was an infringement of the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, others maintained that it was an infringement of the supremacy of God Himself, while some objected to it on the ground that it might interfere with the. ministrations of the clergy. We therefore get a clear statement of what was really meant. When the chief government in all matters is claimed for the Queen as head of the State it is not to be understood that princes have the right to take upon themselves the functions which specially belong to the clergy, viz. preaching, and the administration of the Sacraments in the congregation.
This is quite a mistaken view, and to prove its erroneousness we are referred to the plain testimony of certain injunctions which Queen Elizabeth had expressly published in explanation of what the Royal Supremacy really was. These injunctions are only referred to, as they were evidently well-known at the time of the publication of the Articles; but for the modern reader it may be well to quote from them the passage which, as the Article says, most clearly testifies against the erroneous view of the supremacy just referred to. These injunctions were set forth by royal authority in 1559, and the passage bearing on the subject, runs thus: “Her Majesty forbiddeth all manner her subjects to give ear or credit to such perverse or malicious persons which labour to notify to her loving subjects, how by the words of the said oath it may be collected that the Kings or Queens of this realm possessors of the crown, may challenge authority and power of ministry of divine service in the Church wherein her said subjects be much abused by such evil disposed persons. For certainly Her Majesty neither doth nor ever will challenge any authority than that was challenged and lately used by the said noble kings of famous memory, King Henry VIII and King Edward VI; which is and was of ancient time due to the Imperial Crown of this realm; that is under God, to have the sovereignty and rule over all manner of persons born within these her realms, dominions, and countries, of what estate, either ecclesiastical or temporal soever they be, so as no other shall or ought to have any superiority over them.”
Hence we see that as the Article says, the Queen (as Head of the Church) does not interfere with the functions of the ministers, but she does claim the power to control the illegal actions of all her subjects, whether they be clergy or laymen, and to punish all alike if they disobey the laws of the land. No subject has any business to recognize any higher authority than that of the Queen; her Court, and not the Pope’s, is the final Court of Appeal, as the Bishop of Rome has no power to interfere in the government of this realm of England.
In the exercise of this prerogative Edward the Sixth and his Parliament gave their permission to Cranmer and the reforming bishops to draw up a Liturgy and Articles for the use of the National Church, to be submitted to them for approval. In the exercise of the same authority they, after careful examination held lest anything advocated in the Book of Common Prayer should interfere with the proper administration of their government, gave it their sanction.
By the exercise of the same authority nothing can be added to or taken from the said Book of Common Prayer except by consent of Parliament.
In the exercise of the same authority Bishops are allowed to hold their Courts, but there is always an appeal from them to the Crown, and it is the duty of the highest civil court in the land to pronounce on the legality, or otherwise of Bishops’ judgments, and to decide without right of appeal to any outside power whether they are in accordance with the laws of the land or not.
In the exercise of the same authority the Queen claims to control all companies, corporations, civil or religious, and all individual clergy or laymen; and all alike whether it be in the matter of by-laws or regulations for communities or individuals are bound to conform themselves to the laws of the land as enforced by Royal authority, on pain of the penalties attached to their infringement.
With reference to the two last clauses of the Article it may be observed that they are apparently inserted with a view to contradict some fanatical ideas that were rife in various quarters at the time of the Reformation.
Even as late as the time the Articles were drawn up, there still were to be found many, chiefly those known as Anabaptists, who held and propagated extravagant and erroneous ideas on many subjects. These fanatics had given Luther a .great deal of trouble, and by their excesses in one way and another brought the reformed religion into great discredit with many. Among other things they held that “the Christian must slay none, and must not defend himself.” To refute these errors, and to quiet the consciences of the members of the Church of England on these subjects the Article quietly asserts that capital punishment is allowable in Christian states, where the grievous offences of Christians call for it, and that Christian men need have no compunction, if the Government orders them so to do, about taking up arms and fighting their country’s battles.
We may arrange these under the following headings:–
1. The civil government in any commonwealth has the supreme authority.
“Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Rom. 13:1, 2.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme; or auto governors as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” 1 Peter 2:13, 14.
2. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in England.
“And He said unto them, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so.” Luke 22:25, 26.
Questions on Article XXXVII.
1. Show the mischief occasioned by the Papal Supremacy in England.
2. When and by whom was it overthrown?
3. What do we mean by the Sovereign supremacy in matters ecclesiastical?
4. What were the injunctions of Elizabeth referred to in the Articles?
5. Why were the two last clauses of the Article inserted?
Article XXXVIII – Of Christian Men’s Goods which are not common.
“The riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.”
Article XXXIX – Of a Christian Man’s Oath.
“As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ and James His Apostle, so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet’s teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth,”
Remarks on the Articles.
The errors referred to in these two Articles are similar in character to the two mentioned at the end of the preceding Article, and like them have grown – as is the case with most – either from the exaggeration of a text, or from the fatal mistake of interpreting one passage of Scripture in such a way that it is repugnant to another, and of forgetting the example of the Saviour Himself, who, when the devil tempted Him with isolated texts, and said “It is written,” modified his quotation by replying “It is written again.”
For instance, there were many at the time of the Reformation, who, reading of the community of goods set up amongst the Christians at Jerusalem as recorded in the Acts, came to the conclusion that such a thing was compulsory for all time, without taking into consideration the various references to the possession of private property that are met with in the Epistles.
In a similar way, many reading the words of our Lord and of James His Apostle which bid us not to swear at all, without contemplating the fact that our Lord Himself modified His own teaching when He said, Whatsoever is more than yea, yea, nay, nay, cometh of evil (i.e., is rendered necessary by the presence of evil in the world) without taking into consideration that the Saviour Himself submitted to be put on His oath by Caiaphas, came to the hasty and irrational conclusion that oaths of any kind were forbidden to Christians.
The term Anabaptist mentioned in the Article XXXVIII, was a sort of generic title, given apparently at the time of the Reformation to various fanatical sects, which taking their rise in Holland and Germany spread to other countries in which the Reformation was making progress. Extravagances of opinion and action always accompany any great religions revival, and lest we should be offended the Saviour Himself has prepared us to expect them by the significant parable of the tares and the wheat.
Now various erroneous opinions were held by these sectaries, but from the fact that most of them rejected Infant Baptism they were all classed as Anabaptists, i.e., Rebaptizers, or people who held that though a man had been baptized in his infancy, he must when he joined himself to their party be baptized again.
These sects gave Luther much pain and trouble, not only because of the gross caricatures of the gospel which they presented for acceptance, but because the Church of Rome was pleased to identify all Protestants with them and slanderously to assert that Protestantism in all cases meant Antinomianism, i.e., unlimited license, while Romanism meant morality, and the upholding of law and order. In fact the Church of Rome has been accused, not without evidence, of fomenting licentious sects of Protestants to bring the Reformation into discredit, and to alienate from the movement, the moral and law abiding.
The following quotation from Hardwick’s History of the Articles (chap. v) may serve to throw light on the various forms of misbelief held by the Anabaptists which are alluded to and contradicted in these and the preceding Article.
Having shown how they were altogether in error in the matter of Christology, i.e., the doctrine they held with reference to the person of our Lord, and so to His finished work and the doctrine of justification by faith, and how that many of them simply regarded Christ as a Teacher and exemplar, and in fact abandoned all semblance of belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, and also how, from their peculiar ideas of the “flesh” and the “spirit,” many of them held that though they might be living in grievous sin and abominable practices, they were, nevertheless, not chargeable with transgression, he goes on to say, “In addition to these deadly errors, some of the original Anabaptists had insisted on the dogma of an absolute necessity. Others preached the restoration of all things, and the ultimate conversion of the devil ... The great majority of them cherished the belief that in a kingdom (the millennial) to be speedily established, there would be no longer any need of an external magistracy, nor even of the guidance furnished by the written Word of God. In close connection with this hope, they now asserted the community of goods. They censured military service of a merely secular kind, and steadily objected to the taking of an oath in their negotiations with the world in general. Some, moreover, held that the observance of the Lord’s Day was anti-Christian; others openly advocated a license of polygamy, and are even charged with holding that to those who had received the Spirit, or, in other words, had passed the Anabaptist ordeal of initiation, adultery itself was no sin. By all it was agreed that Anabaptists were at liberty to evade the jurisdiction both of civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, to denounce the latter as a grievous burden, and to aid in the emancipation of all Christians from the discipline as well as doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Luther, whose already well-nigh overwhelming burdens were greatly increased by their licentiousness, folly, and extravagances, says of them, “They teach that the Christian must possess nothing, must take no oath, must hold no magistracy, must give effect to no judgment, must slay none, must not defend himself, must desert his wife and children, with other portentous precepts.”
From the allusion to these sectaries by name in the Article, we conclude that their opinions were making headway in England in the middle of the sixteenth century, and that the danger of men being misled by them was of a sufficiently grave character as to render it necessary that an. authoritative contradiction should be given to them.
Hence we are distinctly told that Christians are not compelled to own their goods in common, although they should be ready to share them liberally and proportionably with those less favourably circumstanced than themselves; and again, that though we are not to take an oath in a light and frivolous manner, yet both the Old and New Testaments allow us on solemn occasions, when great and serious interests are at stake; for the furtherance of righteousness, truth, and a proper decision, and to help on the cause of fidelity and love, at the bidding of the powers that be; to take an oath that we will speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
Scripture Proofs, Article XXXVIII.
These may be conveniently arranged under the following headings:–
1. Community of goods not compulsory.
“While it remained was it not thine own I and after it was sold was it not in thine own power?” Acts 5:4.
“Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? 1 Cor. 11: 22.
2. The duty of liberally giving alms.
“The poor shall never cease out of the land, therefore I command thee saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land.” Deut. 15:11.
“Whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in Him 1” 1 John 3:17.
Scripture Proofs of Article XXXIX
1. Vain and rash swearing is forbidden to Christians.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain ; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.” Exod. 20:7.
“Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” Jas. 5:12.
2. The lawfulness of an oath in a just cause.
“Thou shalt fear the Lord Thy God, and serve Him, and shalt swear by His Name.” Deut. 6:13.
“Men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.” Heb. 6:16.
Questions on Articles XXXVIII and XXXIX.
1. How did the idea that community of Goods was binding on Christians arise?
2. Show from Scripture that (a) this community was only temporary, (b) was never compulsory.
3. Show how our Lord’s command “Swear not at all” was modified by His own example.
4. Give some account of the Anabaptists and their teaching.