An Exposition of The Thirty-Nine Articles
by W. G. Wilson And J. H. Templeton
With A Foreword by The Archbishop Of Armagh
Association For Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1962
[Footnotes moved into place of citation or following paragraph in which cited.
Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals.]
The authors acknowledge with thanks permission to reprint the article on “Christian Initiation”, which was published in the Church Quarterly Review, Vol. CLVII, Jan.-Mar. 1957.
Foreword By The Archbishop of Armagh (Most Rev. James McCann)
I The Persons of the Godhead
Article 1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
Article 2. Of the Word, or Son of God
Article 3. Of the going down of Christ into Hell
Article 4. Of the Resurrection of Christ
Article 5. Of the Holy Ghost
II The Scriptures and Creeds
Article 6. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures
Article 7. Of the Old Testament
Article 8. Of the Three Creeds
III The Nature of Man
Article 9. Of Original or Birth-sin
Article 10. Of Free-will
Article 15. Of Christ alone without Sin
Article 16. Of Sin after Baptism
IV The Salvation of Man
Article 11. Of the Justification of Man
Article 12. Of Good Works
Article 13. Of Works before Justification
Article 14. Of Works of Supererogation
Article 17. Of Predestination and Election
Article 18. Of obtaining eternal Salvation by Christ
V The Church
Article 19. Of the Church
VI The Church’s Authority in Doctrine
Article 20. Of the Authority of the Church
Article 21. Of the Authority of General Councils
Article 22. Of Purgatory
VII The Church’s Authority in Discipline
Article 24. Of Speaking in the Congregation
Article 32. Of the Marriage of Priests
Article 33. Of Excommunicate Persons
Article 34. Of the Traditions of the Church
Article 35. Of the Homilies
VIII The Ministry of the Church
Article 23. Of Ministering in the Congregation
Article 36. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers
IX The Sacraments
Article 25. Of the Sacraments
Article 26. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers
Article 27. Of Baptism
Article 28. Of the Lord’s Supper
Article 29. Of the Wicked which do not eat Christ’s Body in the Lord’s Supper
Article 30. Of Both Kinds
Article 31. Of the one oblation of Christ
X Church and State
Article 37. Of the Civil Magistrates
Article 38. Of Christian Men’s Goods not common
Article 39. Of a Christian Man’s Oath
Appendix A. Questions for Use in Discussion Groups
Appendix B. Christian Initiation – A Reprint of an Article on Holy Baptism and Confirmation, published in the Church Quarterly Review, Vol. CLVII, Jan.–Mar. 1957.
Appendix C. Modern Cosmology and Creation
General Index (omitted for web)
I am happy to accept the kind invitation of Dr. Wilson and his collaborator Dr. Templeton, to write a foreword to this book which they have written on the “Thirty-nine Articles” in our Book of Common Prayer.
It is most important that the Christian “apologia” should be made clear, as it has been done in this book.
Our Church of Ireland is greatly indebted to these two scholars, who have used the leisure afforded them, when their parochial tasks have been carried out, to study deeply the records of our Reformation era, and to present their interpretation of our past history in modern language.
The original purpose of the “Articles” was to instruct people in the Faith. The essential principles of continuity and change are embedded in our historic tradition. In each generation, therefore, it becomes necessary to explain the truths of the Christian Creeds in the setting and situation of the day.
The most remarkable phenomenon in twentieth century Christendom is the worldwide movement towards re-union. An understanding of the “Thirty-nine Articles” throws light on the special genius and place of the Anglican Communion as a “Bridge Church” which claims to hold firmly every doctrine taught in the Apostolic Age as “de fide” and as “necessary for salvation”.
This study makes plain the ‘setting’ in which the Articles were produced in the Elizabethan period, when the scholars of that time in “Ecclesia Anglicana” were guided towards a “via media” between the extremes of the Church of Rome on the one hand, and the variety of “sectaries” on the other. The appeal to Scripture and Antiquity convinced them that Christian Truth was to be found along a “middle pathway”.
This is illustrated in the study of Articles VI, XIX, XX and XXXIV. Those who are interested especially in the “ecumenical movement” will find the treatment of these particular Articles illuminating.
The “Questions for Use in Discussion Groups – Appendix A” is a very valuable addition to this work, and should be most helpful.
Dr. Wilson’s appendix on “Christian Initiation” and Dr. Templeton’s on “Cosmology” will be of interest also, and of use to students in these subjects.
I commend this valuable work to all within or without our Communion who are working for Unity and Fellowship in Christ’s Church.
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Palace, Armagh, .5 April, 1962.
This book is offered to members of the Anglican Communion in the conviction that there is a great need within our Church for more teaching manuals which will present the dogmatic principles of Anglicanism in an easily assimilated form. In many parts of the world members of our Communion are subject to persistent, efforts to undermine their faith and loyalty to the Church. Quite apart from the spread of humanism and secularized systems of education which foster a purely materialistic outlook on life, and must be met with informed Christian opinion, the activities of the sects often present the Church with a challenge which cannot be ignored. Even as early as 1536 when the Ten Articles were published, the crop of heresies which sprang from the religious licence accompanying the Reformation, and then known under the general name of Anabaptism, had begun to infect the Church of England. This fact has an important bearing on the contents of the Thirty-nine Articles, more than half of which deal with “the pestilent and heinous heresies of the sects”, as Ridley described them, rather than with the corruptions of the Roman Church. Anabaptism revived the whole gamut of erroneous doctrines which vexed the early Church, besides introducing novelties of its own, and demanded a fairly full restatement of orthodox teaching in reply.
The Commission on Evangelism appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York emphasized the fundamental importance of dogma in any really effective presentation of the Gospel. “Dogma is the core of every system of faith and worship; without it, religion would dissolve into mere sentiment and would, in a few generations, perish altogether”. Out of dogma emerges Christian doctrine, which is “the formulation of revealed truth in current terms, together with the deductions implicit within it”. The Commission considered that “a grasp of doctrine, derived from the Bible as the Word of God, is the essential equipment of an evangelist, and one that has never been more needed than today”. The revival of interest in theology amongst university students, the increasing emphasis on Adult Religious Education, and the growing recognition of the layman’s place in Evangelism, all underline the need for more authoritative teaching manuals. We believe that a study of the Thirty-nine Articles in relation to the teaching of the Bible can do much to meet this need. On the basic Christian beliefs the Articles contain a careful, well-balanced statement of the historic Church’s interpretation of the revelation of God in Christ, with which modern thought is more in sympathy than is usually supposed. “The times call urgently for the Anglican witness to Scripture, tradition and reason – alike for meeting the problems which Biblical theology is creating, for serving the reintegration of the Church, and for presenting the faith as at once supernatural and related to contemporary man. This witness demands a costly devotion to truth and a conviction that theology is not merely a handmaid to administration, but a prime activity of the Church.” [Archbishop A. M. Ramsey, From Goreth Temple (1960) p. vi.]
A study of the teaching of the Articles is also relevant for another reason. In many parts of the world members of the Anglican Communion are joining in discussions on Church Unity and are seeking to overcome theological barriers to reunion. In some cases, however, legal barriers may prove to be more formidable than theological differences. For instance, it has been pointed out that in the case of the Church of Ireland the tenets and principles of the Church as set out in the Preamble and Declaration adopted by the General Convention in 1870 “are essential to its identity and all church property, and all funds held for any church purpose, are held upon trusts of which the several provisions of the Preamble constitute an integral part”. [The Constitution of the Church of Ireland, (1946) p. vi.] The Preamble states that the Church of Ireland will maintain communion with other churches “agreeing in the principles of this Declaration”. It is difficult to see how she could enter into full communion with any church which felt unable to accept those principles, for if she were to compromise on any of those principles for the sake of reunion, she might risk the forfeiture, by sequestration, of all her property and endowments. The same risk would doubtless face some other parts of the Anglican Communion contemplating reunion. As in the case of the Church of Ireland, one of the Fundamental Provisions of the Uganda Constitution declares:
“I. The Church of Uganda doth hold and maintain the doctrines and sacraments of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded in His Holy Word and as the Church of England hath received and explained the same in the Book of Common Prayer, and in the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and further it disclaims for itself the right of altering any of the aforesaid standards of faith and doctrine.”
If theological discussions on reunion are to achieve practical results cognizance must be taken of such Declarations and of their legal force and implications. A fresh study of the Reformation formularies (such as the Thirty-nine Articles) against the background of the teaching of Scripture and early Church practice may be useful, before we attempt to draft any doctrinal statements as a basis for reunion. As Dr. Broomfield so rightly says, “The faith of the One Holy Catholic Church, when it is again united, will not be limited to what is common to all the various groups into which Christians are now divided. That would be a sad impoverishment. On the contrary, it must include everything which is true in the faith of each and all of them. Similarly the Order and practice of the united Church must be such as to preserve everything of real and permanent value... If this is so, unity is to be sought not by a readiness to minimize – much less to abandon – the things which distinguish us from our brethren, but rather by an eagerness to discover whatever is true and valuable in the things which distinguish them from us”. [G. W. Broomfield, Revelation and Reunion, (1942), p. 214f.] As, in the past, those who sought the reformation of the Church were obliged to think out and express the principles for which they stood, so those who today seek the reunion of the Church must re-examine their principles. How far, for instance, are the Thirty-nine Articles in accord with the teaching and practices of the Primitive Church? We hope that a study of the following pages may indicate an answer to that important question.
We should like to express our gratitude to the Bishop of Cashel, Rt. Rev. W. C. de Pawley, and to the Rev. T. N. D. C. Salmon, who read the typescript and made many helpful suggestions. We are also deeply indebted to Mr. A. G. Gray for the keen personal interest he has taken in the production of the book.
W. G. WILSON
J. H. TEMPLETON
Feast of the Epiphany, 1962.
The Thirty-nine Articles are associated with many other doctrinal statements issued during the Reformation in Europe. In order to justify their actions, those who disapproved of the doctrine and practices of the Church of Rome were obliged to examine and express in print the principles for which they stood. It is necessary to know something of the other formularies of faith which appeared in the sixteenth century, before we state our own position.
One of the earliest of the Reformation formularies, [There were one or two earlier documents, such as Luther’s Greater and Lesser Catechisms (1527–29), the Articles of Schwabach (1529) and Torgau (1530).] and by far the most important, was the Confession of Augsburg (1530) drawn up mainly by Melanchthon, revised by Luther, and presented to the Diet [The English name for a foreign Parliament.] at Augsburg. It consisted of 21 Articles on matters of faith, and 7 Articles protesting against abuses. On the whole it was moderate in tone and aimed at reformation within the Church, if possible. In 1552 it was enlarged to Thirty-five Articles, and presented to the Council of Trent by the ambassadors of Würtemberg, and in that form is known as The Würternberg Confession. The influence of these Confessions on our Articles is noted in our exposition.
In 1530, Zwingli, a Swiss reformer, also presented a Confession to the Diet of Augsburg. After his death, his followers put forward their views in the Confession of Basle and the First Helvetic Confession (1536). But none of these documents had any positive influence on our Articles. Other well-known Continental documents were Calvin’s Institutes (1549), the Saxon Confession (1551), and the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the work of Henry Bullinger.
The first English statement of doctrine was issued with the approval of Convocation as The Ten Articles (1536), a compromise designed to promote unity between the Roman Catholic and the reforming parties. The first five of these Articles dealt with doctrine: the Rule of Faith was based on the Bible, the three Creeds, and decisions of the Four Great Councils; three Sacraments (Baptism, the Eucharist, and Penance) were affirmed as instituted by Christ, and the Real Presence [Cf. Article XXVIII.] was asserted; the Royal Supremacy was substituted for Papal Supremacy. [Cf. Article XXXVII.] The second five Articles were mainly concerned with ceremonies, and permitted the use of images, the honouring and invoking of saints, [Cf. Article XXII.] encouraged prayers for the dead, and denounced abuses connected with Purgatory and Indulgences. [Cf. Article XXII.]
The Ten Articles remained effective until 1543. Meanwhile, a practical handbook of instruction, based on the Ten Articles, appeared in 1537 as The Institution of a Christian Man, commonly called The Bishops’ Book. [The Creed, Seven Sacraments, Ten Commandments, Ave Maria, Lord’s Prayer, Justification and Purgatory were explained. Baptism, Eucharist, and Penance were placed higher than other Sacraments.] It was the work of a committee under Archbishop Cranmer, and was issued with the authority of the Bishops, though it never gained the King’s authority because of its poor theology and literary style. In 1543 a revised edition, based on the King’s criticisms, was produced under the title The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man, commonly called The King’s Book. [Transubstantiation, Clerical celibacy, and implied equality of all Seven Sacraments, were its chief characteristics.] It was more anti-Protestant, and reflected the. reaction then developing against further reform.
In 1538, the King had invited three Lutheran Divines over to consult with Archbishop Cranmer and two other Bishops on matters of faith. The Confession of Augsburg was used as a basis for discussion. Henry, however, would not agree to Communion in Both Kinds, [Cf. Article XXX.] Clerical Marriage, or the condemnation of propitiatory Masses, and the conference broke down, but not before The Thirteen Articles were compiled. [The Thirteen Articles were derived largely from Seventeen Articles drawn up by Luther and Melanchthon in 1536 and handed to the English Ambassadors, Fox and Heath. Some of the Thirteen Articles were word for word the same as their German counterparts in the Seventeen Articles.] They were not published then, but were later found amongst Cranmer’s papers, and are important because they form a link between the Augsburg Confession and our present Articles. [Cf. Article XXIII.]
When the Pope excommunicated Henry in 1538, the King reacted in proclaiming his orthodoxy by applying “The Whip with the Six Strings” (The Six Articles of 1539), which was incorporated in an Act of Parliament popularly called “The Bloody Statute of the Six Articles.” The Act compelled the acceptance of Transubstantiation (though the actual word is avoided), Clerical Celibacy, Communion in One Kind, the obligation of Vows of Chastity, the use of Private Masses, and Auricular Confession. Thenceforth no further move towards the reformation of the doctrine of the Church was possible while Henry VIII lived.
On the accession of Edward VI in 1547, Cranmer and his colleagues were able to continue the work of reformation. First came the revised Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552. Although no new Articles were officially authorized for some years, there is evidence that as early as 1549 Cranmer required preachers and lecturers in Divinity to assent to certain Articles of Religion. In the same year, a committee under his chairmanship drew up a scheme for the Reform of Church Law (Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum) which, though it was not published by authority, accords very closely with the language of some of our present Articles.
In 1551, Cranmer was directed to prepare a Book of Articles, which he showed to some of the Bishops. But it was May 1552 before the Council asked Convocation for them. They originally numbered 45, but after revision by the Royal Chaplain, were reduced to 42, and published, by Royal command, in Latin and English, in 1553 as The Forty-Two Articles. They were mainly the work of Cranmer, who in compiling them made use of the Thirteen Articles of 1538, and the Confession of Augsburg. [He apparently did not use the Confession of Augsburg direct, but through the Thirteen Articles, especially on Articles I, II, IV, IX, XIV, XVI, XXIII, XXIV, XXV.] It is still doubtful whether they were approved by Convocation, but the point is not of great significance, for they were put forth by the King’s authority only seven weeks before his death. On the accession of Queen Mary they were dropped – they had not been enforced by Act of Parliament and there was no need to repeal them. Once more the reforming process was halted.
When Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, Prayer Book revision took precedence over the Articles. But, as a temporary measure, Archbishop Parker drew up and circulated amongst the clergy The Eleven Articles (1559), dealing with the authority of Scripture, the rights of National Churches, the Royal Supremacy, and Roman errors such as private masses, communion in one Kind, and the extolling of images and relics. These Articles were never legally binding except in Ireland, where they were in force from 1566 until superseded by the Thirty-nine Articles in 1615. All Ministers at their first entry into their cures, and twice yearly afterwards, were required to read them publicly.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Parker, with the help of Bishop Cox of Ely, and Bishop Guest of Rochester, was working on a revision of The Forty-Two Articles of 1553. As in 1553, Cranmer had used the Thirteen Articles (based on the Confession of Augsburg), so once more Lutheran influence made itself felt when Parker drew upon The Würtemberg Confession in making his revision of 1563. Four of the original Forty-two were struck out (viz: Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, Of Grace, Of the Moral Law, Against the Millenarians) and four others substituted: Of the Holy Ghost (V), Of Good Works (XII), Of Communion in Both Kinds (XXX), Of the Non-participation of the Wicked in the Holy Communion (XXIX). Convocation passed only 39 of the 42, and the Queen (i) reduced the number to 38 by striking out Article XXIX to avoid offending the Roman Catholic party, and (ii) added the opening clause in Article XX. taken from The Würtemberg Confession.
The Thirty-eight Articles remained unaltered until 1571. The Queen’s excommunication by the Pope in 1570 destroyed any hope of reconciliation. It was no longer necessary, then, to fear that Article XXIX would hurt their feelings, and it was accordingly incorporated. A few other minor changes were made, including the addition of four books in the list of the Apocrypha (Article VI). As revised, the Thirty-nine Articles were then passed by Convocation, and received the sanction of Parliament in 1571. Since then they have been “received and approved” as authoritative standards of doctrine by most of the branches of the Anglican Communion.
In many parts of the Anglican Communion every clergyman, when he is made a Deacon, ordained Priest, consecrated Bishop, or licensed for a benefice or curacy, is required to declare his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles. The Ordinal requires every Priest at his ordination to vow “always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same.” The Ordinal thus allows little scope for the teaching of novel or personal opinions; only “received” doctrine is to be taught. Hence one of the chief uses of the Articles today is that they provide a body of official teaching.
It was the declared aim and object of the Anglican Reformers to cleave to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church. They made a two-fold appeal to Scripture and Antiquity one of their basic principles. In matters of doctrine, the appeal to Scripture as the supreme Rule of Faith was always regarded as final; in questions as to the correct interpretation of Scripture, and in matters of ceremonial they preferred to be guided by the practice of the Primitive Church. In the fifth century, St. Vincent of Lerins formulated a rule for .distinguishing Catholic truth from falsehood, and his rule has won general acceptance ever since. The most important part of his rule or “canon” is as follows:
“In the Catholic Church itself all possible care must be taken that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent.”
To put it more simply, St. Vincent’s rule is (a) that we should generally follow the teaching of the majority, but (b) since even the majority of any generation may teach something which is not true, we should verify the teaching of the majority by asking, Have the majority of Christians in every generation believed so? That is the real test of what is Catholic doctrine and what is not Catholic.
At the Reformation, the leaders of our Church stoutly resisted any suggestion that they were departing from Catholic teaching. They maintained that they were merely reforming the teaching of the Church to bring it into line with the teaching and practices of the Primitive Church, by rejecting the new articles which had been added to the Faith by the Church of Rome.
Following this traditional appeal to Scripture and Antiquity, we have given references to Scripture and early authorities wherever possible, to demonstrate the Catholicity of the teaching of the Articles.
The Articles also illustrate another basic principle of the Anglican Reformation – the quest for the Via Media, the middle path between extremes. Faced with the doctrines of Rome on the one hand, and the novel ideas and practices of the Continental Reformers on the other, the English Reformers tried to follow the middle path in many cases – not for reasons of expediency, but because, in Saunderson’s words, “The mean between the two extremes seems to be the truer opinion.” That principle is generally true in life today, as in every generation, even though some disparage it as mere “compromise”. If in some of the Articles, the zeal for reform may seem to have gone to extremes, allowance must be made for the fact that the text of many of them was hammered out in the heat of controversy. “Their statements must always be taken in the light of the circumstances which brought them forth.”
The relevance of the Articles today lies in the fact that, for the most part, they speak, albeit in dated language, of eternal truth – of the nature of God, the life and work of Christ as Saviour, the origin of the Holy Spirit; of the nature of man, his sinfulness and need of grace; of the mercy and love of God displayed in our justification and salvation; of the nature and work of the Church, its Ministry, its Doctrine and Sacraments; and of the relationship between the Church and the world through which we pass, as pilgrims on the road to an Eternal Destiny.
Chapter I – The Persons of the Godhead
Article I: Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
[This Article dates from 1533 and is derived mainly from the First Article of the Confession of Augsburg (1530) and the last of the Thirteen Articles of 1538.]
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.
The Christian Church does not, in the first instance, attempt to convince men of the existence of God. She is a witness rather than an uncertain inquirer. Instead of speculating how to establish God’s, existence, she teaches men, on God’s authority, what God is like. The Articles rightly commence with certain dogmatic statements about the Godhead, in unity of substance and Trinity of Persons, because a true conception of the nature of God is the fundamental basis of true religion.
A study of the Bible suggests that we should not expect the existence of God to be demonstrated like a problem in mathematics. “He that cometh unto God must begin by an act of believing (Greek, pisteusai) that He is, and that He is found a Rewarder to them that seek Him out.” [Heb. 11:6.] Our logical faculties must be supported by an act of faith on our part, but having made that initial act of faith in God, we find that it is reasonable to believe in Him. Belief in a supernatural power seems to be part of man’s nature, for no tribe is known that has not some such belief. The presence of life in a world in which there was originally no life, proclaims the existence of a Life-giver. Everything in existence must have an adequate cause, the existence of the Universe showing evidence of intelligence, presupposes an intelligent First Cause. Likewise, the evidence of a moral sense in mankind points to a moral Creator.
The Article declares “there is but one living and true God”. The unity of God was affirmed in the Creed of the Jewish Church: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” [Deut. 6:4.] endorsed by Jesus, [Mark 12:29.] and proclaimed by the Apostolic Church. [1 Cor. 8:4, 6; Ephes. 4:6: Jas. 2:9.] It is more than numerical unity: it is essential unity. [Deut.6:4; Isa.41:4; 44:6; 48:12.] There cannot be more than one First Cause. The Bible repeatedly describes Him as the “Living God”, [Josh. 3:10; Dan.6:26; Matt. 16:16; Jn.6:57; Acts 14:15, etc.] and in the Article the use of vivus instead of vivens indicates that He is not merely “alive”, but is the Source of all life. [Jn.5:26, cf. Ps.42:2.] He is also described as “the living and true God” in the Bible [Jer. 10:10; 1 Thess.1:9; 1 Jn. 5:20.], and the use of the Greek word alethinos, paralleled by the Latin word verus in the Article, means that He is the only true, genuine, Gods [Jn. 17:3; Isa. 44:8ff.] as contrasted with false gods. This belief that the Divine Nature is one and indivisible is quite an exceptional conception. In fact, belief in “one living and true God . . . the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible”, Who freely wills the existence of all else that is, is reached and maintained only in the Hebrew-Christian revelation. It is not found in ancient mythology, according to which the gods themselves are evolved in the course of Nature. The idea of a Creator-God first appears among the most historically conscious people in the world, Israel; they were the only nation that believed their God had given them the promise of a glorious future, and that He was sufficiently powerful to control events for that purpose. It is because He is the “living God”, the God of effective Providence who performs “mighty acts” in pursuance of His intention in history, that He is also the “true” God, whose Name has reality behind it.
When we talk or write about God we find ourselves, like the biblical writers, describing Him in words normally associated with human life. We think of Him as a “personal” God. He can love [Hos. 11:1; Isa.43:4; Jn. 15:9.] or be angry, [Jn. 3:36; Deut.33:16; Rev. 14:10.] be grieved, [Ps. 78:40; Isa. 63:10 (R.V.); Ephes. 4:30.] jealous, [Exod. 20:5; Deut. 32:16.] or merciful. [Ps. 86:15; Ps. 103:8, 11; Heb. 8:12.] He is said to have a will, [Matt. 7:21; Jn. 6:39; Ephes. 1:11; 1 Jn. 5:14.] and a mind and a purpose, [Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16; Jn. 10:15; Acts. 4:28.] and we find frequent metaphorical references to His hands, [Ps. 102:25; Heb. 1:10, etc.] heart, [Gen. 8:21; Job. 34:14.] lips, [Job 11:5.] mouth, [1 Kings 8:15.] arms, [Job 40:9; Ps. 77:15.] eyes, [Ezra 5:5; Ps. 30:18.] and voice. [Job 40:9; Deut. 4:33.] If such metaphorical references were interpreted too literally, we would be in danger of thinking of God as little more than a man, [Anthropomorphism, the attribution of a human form to the Deity.] with all the limitations and imperfections of our finite human personalities. To guard against this error, the Article declares that God is “everlasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness”. Our lives are subject to all the limitations imposed upon us by time and space; but God is “everlasting”. [Ps. 90:2; Rom. 1:20; 16:26; Rev. 1:8.] There was no moment of time when He first came into being. Time does not hamper His knowledge or His power. He does not grow old or weary. [Isa. 40:28.] Because He is Spirit, [Jn. 4:24 (R.V.).] He is “without body” unlimited by any considerations of space, and can be present in all places at the same time. [Ps. 139; Prov. 15:3; Acts 17:27.] He is also “without parts” (Latin, impartibilis), incapable of being divided in any sense. We may suffer from inner conflicts, but He is at one within Himself. What from our standpoint are separate attributes, such as His love and His wrath, are really “aspects of one consistent and unchanging being”. Likewise, He is “without passions” (Latin, impassibilis); He is not fickle and does not change, [Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17.] or do anything inconsistent such as contradicting Himself, [2 Tim. 2:13.] or telling a lie. [Heb. 6:18 (R.V.); Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29.]
The Article then proceeds to state some of the more positive attributes of God, as possessing “infinite power, wisdom and goodness”. All things are possible with Him, [Matt. 19:26.] nothing can escape His knowledge, [Matt. 10:29f.] and His “great goodness” is self-evident. [Ps.cxlv.7–12; Rom.ii.4.] He is also “the Maker and Preserver of all things visible and invisible”. We do not know how God created the world, but we believe that He did. “It is by faith that we understand that the world was fashioned by the Word of God, and thus the visible was made out of the invisible. [Heb. 11:3 (Moffatt).] “He spake and it was done.” [Ps. 33:9.] “He commanded and they were created”. [Ps. 148:5.] As a building originates in the mind of the architect before it becomes visible in outward form, so all created things had their origin in the Creator. [Acts 17:28.] God also dwells in His world and is present in all life. “‘In Him we live, and move and have our being,” [Rom. 11:36.] He is over all and through all and in all. [Ephes. 4:6.]
The declaration in the Article on the creative and preserving relationship of God to all other existence requires further explanation. The Old Testament depicts God calling His servants the prophets to whom He reveals the divine secret; [Cf. Amos 3:7.] the ambitions and aggressions of powerful empires are seen to further His designs, and world leaders, unknown to themselves, are the instruments of His purpose; [Isa. xlv.1–14.] even the distribution and migrations of mankind are according to His will. [Amos 9:7, etc.] Evidence of the “mighty acts” of God in history suggested that not only history itself, but also the world, the scene of history, must owe its existence to God; all things whatsoever derive from and depend on Him. The Old Testament doctrine of God, in its highest expression, brings together His sovereignty in the over-ruling of history and His lordship over Nature; [Isa. 40–55.] the one is the complement of the other. He who appoints the heathen king, Cyrus the Persian, to free His people from captivity in Babylon is also the Creator of the host of heaven and of the ends of the earth; the heathen deities are idols and nothing, and their worship is scorned. [Isa. 40, 44, 45.] The growing perception among the Jews of divine omnipotence led at last to the view that God made the world “out of nothing” (ex nihilo); the logic of Providence, as Origen saw, required it, and this belief became the Standard one in Christianity. [It first occurs in the apocryphal Second Book of Maccabees, 7:28, and appears again in an early Christian writing, The Shepherd of Hermas, Visions I. 1. – “God, who dwelleth in the heavens, and created out of nothing the things which are . . .”]
God is not a fabricator working on matter which is already there; but must we think of Him as a conjuror Who calls something into being from non-existence? By its researches into the nature of matter, science has followed it beyond the boundaries of the concrete, and found that it is nothing like the stuff of our work-a-day surroundings; under analysis it passes into a concept in the mind of the mathematician and is represented by an algebraic formula. Hence, there is nothing either in science or theology against viewing the universe as a projection of divine thought. This means that “creation out of nothing” is better expanded into “creation out of nothing outside God Himself”.
The problem of creation, then, turns out to be one of describing the conversion of thought into matter. According to some scientists the borderline between the visible and the invisible has now been reached; new matter is coming into existence before our eyes: “at one time the various atoms composing the material do not exist, and at a later time they do”. In answer to the question where the new atoms come from, Dr. Hoyle says “it does not come from anywhere. Material simply appears – it is created”. [F. Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, p. 105.] A statement like this is full of weaknesses; to say that something comes from nothing or nowhere is not science at all, for the scientific dictum is: ex nihilo nihil fit “nothing comes from nothing”, and to equate a thing’s appearance with its creation is to confuse the language of science and religion. In this region of ultimate data scientific theory has reached its limit; it can neither pronounce whether new matter is self-existing nor that it is created, and if religion affirms that “It is by faith that we understand that the world was fashioned by the Word of God, and thus the visible was made out of the invisible”, [Heb. 11:3 (Moffatt); “the visible came forth from the invisible” (N.E.B).] it is not for science to endorse or deny it – the question is beyond the scope of its method.
The traditional Christian doctrine of a universe beginning and ending with time seems to have the majority support among cosmologists at present. Natural processes are ordinarily considered to have an evolutionary trend, that is, towards increased organization and complexity. But this only holds for the development of life in our immediate surroundings; evolution is a biological theory. In the universe as a whole movement is not by evolution, but by devolution; on the large scale organization is breaking up, and things are passing from the complex to the simple. The evidence of this disintegrating process is perceived by us in the light and heat of stellar bodies, and this radiation is matter in its most rudimentary form. Now if it is supposed that from this elemental matter or free radiation there started a substance-building process, science is unable adequately to describe it; devolution by radiation is irreversible. Science will either have to take an organized universe for granted, or else assume an external cause of cosmic beginnings: “everything points with overwhelming force to a definite event, or series of events, of creation at some time or times, not infinitely remote.” [J. Jeans, Eos, p. 55. Cf. Appendix C on Modern Cosmology and Creation.]
Modern theories of the universe are not unsympathetic to the place of Christ in the Christian doctrine of creation. As the outgoing, expressed divine Word or Reason, He is the Agent of God’s creative, sustaining and ordering action in the world. [Cf. Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16f; 1 Cor. 8:6.] How did the first generation of Christians ever come to ascribe a role of such stupendous meaning to One who had appeared on earth in their day? There is but one sufficient explanation, and it lies in that experience which found its theological interpretation in belief in the Trinity. As we shall see, redemption is also creation – the indwelling Christ in communicating God’s saving grace operates creatively; in Him man has entered the new order under the New Covenant, and has become an original creation. For Pauline thought creation is not a cosmological theory; it is a fact of experience. Christ’s place and work in the universe are simply an extension of His regenerating effect in the faithful soul.
“And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Apostolic Church affirmed “there is but one God, [Jas. 2:19; 1 Cor. 8:6.] and within the unity of the Godhead there are three distinct Persons. [Matt. 3:16f; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.] The Father is God, [Mtt. 11:25; Rom. 15:6.] the Son is God, [Jn. 1:18; Jn. 20.] and the Holy Spirit is God. [E.g., lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God, Acts v:3, 4.] The title “Trinity” is not a biblical one; it first occurs in the Church author Tertullian, [Adv. Prax. 11.12.] and is as distinctive among divine names as the reasons which required the formulation of such a conception of God.
Why did the Church not keep to the belief in God which it inherited from Judaism? What led it from the idea of God as a Monad (unity without distinction) to that of a Triad (unity with distinctions)?
Momentous changes like this do not just happen; there are compelling reasons behind them, and it is most important that we should understand those reasons. At the outset, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that although the word Trinity is not found in the New Testament the foundation of the doctrine is solidly laid there. They are mistaken who suppose that it was the outcome of philosophic inquiry into the nature of ultimate being, or even the conclusion reached by a conference of theologians trying to harmonize all the statements about God in Scripture. The basis of the belief in a triune Divine Nature lies in believing experience of the saving grace and power of God in Christ, through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s Body, the Church. [Ephes. 4:15f.; Col. 2:19; 1 Cor. 12:27] It is an unique experience which was not possible before the Divine economy, or God’s way with mankind, was fully unfolded in the Incarnation and the bestowal of the Spirit, nor can it be had elsewhere. So there is no cause for surprise in the fact that the Christian conception of the Trinity stands by itself among the theologies of world religions: the intellectual interpretation of an exclusive spiritual experience simply led back to a correspondingly peculiar view of the God whose action produced the experience.
Let us turn to a consideration of what the standard account of it, the New Testament, has to say about this starting point of Trinitarian theology, Christian religious experience. The most concise, and yet the fullest, expression of the estimate of Jesus in the original proclamation of the Gospel is contained in one of the earliest emblems of the Faith, a fish; for the letters of the Greek word for “fish” (ICHTHUS), are the initials of the words in the Greek phrase Iesous CHristos THeou Uios Soter: “Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour”. Only the last of these names, Saviour, is directly connected with our Lord’s work, the others refer to His Person and Office. But they reveal that the dominant thought in the earliest understanding of Christ’s achievement is that He has wrought salvation; He is preeminently Saviour, and this is not unconnected with His divine Sonship. All these names and designations are to be found in the apostolic preaching recorded in Acts, but we are here concerned with one – “Saviour”. St. Peter declared before the Jewish Council that God had raised up and exalted Jesus to be “a Saviour”; [Acts 5:31.] he exhorted the people on the Day of Pentecost to be baptized “in the Name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins”; [Acts 2:38.] and told their rulers that He is the sole Mediator of salvation; in His Name alone must men be saved. [Acts 4:12.] If the Resurrection, which is given such prominence in St. Peter’s addresses in the Acts, made the Gospel message possible, it did so as the guarantee of the validity of Christ’s atonement, and because it reveals Him as the Bearer of redemption.
In order to see how the saving power made available through Jesus is applied to our case, we turn to St. Paul, the first and supreme interpreter of Christian religious experience. For the Apostle the definition of the believer’s calling is “life in Christ”; he is in Christ, and conversely, Christ is in him; an interpenetration of personalities takes place. [Cf. Rom. 8:2; 16:7; 2 Cor. 5:17.] St. Paul is so realistic about this relationship between Christ and believers that he thinks of them inclusively as the instrument of Christ’s continuing expression in the world; they comprise His new Body, the Church. [1 Cor. 12:27; Ephes. 4:12; Col. 1:18...] Union with Christ begins with reception into the faithful community when we “were baptized into Christ”; we then died to sin, put on Christ, and rose with Him to newness of life. [Rom. 6:2, 14; Gal. 3:27.] So deep and intense is St. Paul’s sense of the inner presence of Christ that he feels He has taken possession of Him; it is no longer he who lives, but the Christ who dwells in him. [Gal. 2:20.]
Through the life hidden with Christ in God, the Apostle found the solution to the problem that engaged the best minds of his day, namely, how to attain the mastery of self and circumstance, and live the full, fear-free life. When he claims: “I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me”, [Phil. 4:12f. (R.V.).] he has realized the ideal of Stoicism, and more, because he could also declare that for him to die was gain, and this was precisely what no Stoic could say.
This quality of Christian experience is just one of those things that our Lord would have found it unprofitable to try to explain to His disciples during His Ministry; it had to happen before it could be intelligible, and so there is nothing about it in the teaching of Jesus in the first three Gospels. Was it long meditation on the nature of Christian spiritual experience which recalled for St. John the sayings of Jesus about His return to his followers through the sending of the Holy Spirit? Did their verification in the subsequent life of the Church throw a light on words of Jesus, not understood at the time, and cause them to be remembered? Be that as it may, the Fourth Gospel tells us that our Lord assured the disciples that His coming departure would not mean absence from them. On the contrary, the Ascension was the condition of His presence with them in a far more intimate way than was possible before. Jesus’ promise to return to the disciples is to some extent fulfilled in the sending of the Spirit. [Jn. 14:16–20; 16:7.] The same equivalence occurs in St. Paul; the Spirit is Christ’s Spirit and also God’s, [Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19.] and mediates His energizing presence in the faithful soul. To be strengthened with power through the (Father’s) Spirit, and to have Christ dwelling in the heart through faith, [Eph. 3:14–17.] are merely different descriptions of the same fact. Life in the Spirit and life in Christ are interchangeable states. And by participating in the life of Christ by the indwelling of His Spirit the Christian has all that constitutes salvation, – forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, victory over the world, and hope for destiny.
No terms are too strong to express the contrast between the experience of being in Christ and of being without Him. It is the difference between light and darkness, [Acts 26:18; 1 Pet. 2:9.] between life and death, [1 Jn. 3:14.] in fact, the change from the one state to the other can only be understood as a fresh creative act of God. Man in Christ, says St. Paul, is a “new creation”. [2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15.] Christians are “begotten again”, [1 Pet. 1:2, 23.] and Christ is the Second Adam, the progenitor of a new, redeemed race. [1 Cor. 15:45.] Creation, absolute and original – for that is what the Pauline phrase means, and not a reconditioning of used materials [2 Cor. 5:17 – “the old things are passed away”.] – is the reverse side of salvation. But the truth is never forgotten that salvation has its source in God: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself”. [2 Cor. 5:19.]
It is questions arising out of a knowledge of the redeeming grace of God in Christ that go to the heart of Trinitarian theology. How is He to be regarded Who passes through the barriers of the personality, and by right makes His abode within the precincts of the soul? Who is He whose presence brings a sense of sins pardoned, of peace with God, and of a power not our own working within us for righteousness? This is not the relation of an ordinary leader to his followers: imagine anyone speaking of being “in Socrates” or “in Confucius”, or they in him! By definition both the relation and its effect require Deity for their support. Only He who is the ground of our being, on whom we utterly depend, and Whose claim upon us is complete could properly establish this relationship with us, and the salvation flowing from it is something exclusively ascribed to God. “The overwhelming sense of divine redemption in Christ led Christians to ascribe absolute Deity to their Redeemer.” [Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, p.xxii.]
Here is the reason behind the high titles and functions accorded to Jesus in the New Testament: He is “Lord”, [Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:11; Rom. 14:9.] the Logos or Word of God, [Jn. 1:14.] the Judge of mankind – living and dead, [Acts 10:42; 17:31; Jn. 5:22.] the Power and Wisdom of God. [1 Cor. 1:24.]
It must be underlined that it is the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work, perceived in the enjoyment of its benefits in believing experience through His indwelling presence by the Holy Spirit, that forms the basis and motive of the Christian doctrine of God. In modern terms we should say that the Saviour and the Sanctifier have each the value of God for the soul, and it is only expressing this in another way to affirm that both have a place in ultimate Being, the Godhead.
The doctrine of the Trinity of Persons in unity of substance was thus based primarily on the experience of the first disciples. They found that Jesus claimed an unique intimacy with God, [Matt. 11:25–27.] and later died for His claim to be the Son of God. [Mk. 14:61.] He also spoke of the Holy Spirit as divine yet distinct from Himself, [Jn. 14:16; 15:26.] and when they experienced the Spirit’s power they knew that He could be no less than God. Hence, though the doctrine of the Trinity is not formally stated in the New Testament, it is implicit in the Apostolic teaching and experience, and becomes a reality in the experience of every faithful member of the Church.
Article II: Of the Word, or Son of God, Which Was Made Very Man
[The words in italics were inserted in 1563 from the Confession of Würtemberg.]
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, 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.
This Article, derived mainly from the Augsburg Confession through the Thirteen Articles, is carefully framed to preserve the truth against heresies concerning the Nature and Person of Christ. Many of those heresies originated in the early centuries of the Church’s life, and are often called after their originators, [E.g., Nestorianism, called after Nestorius, who was condemned for teaching that there were two distinct persons in Christ.] but they are sometimes repeated in modern times.
The Article may be considered under four main assertions:
(1) Christ is the eternal Son of God “begotten from everlasting... of one substance with the Father”. This declaration is directed against Arianism and all who, like Arius, say there was a time when the Son did not exist. [Condemned at Council of Nicaea. The Article is also relevant as an answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses who relegate Jesus to the status of a “creature”.] Whereas Article I is concerned with the distinctions in the Godhead, and of the relation of the Son and the Holy Spirit to the Father, this Article treats primarily of the Son’s relation to the world. The most general way in which Christians think of Christ is that He is the Mediator, the Agent in God’s contact with the world: God acts through Him in creating [Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16. (R.V.).] and giving cohesion to the universe, and He brings salvation. Now the intellectual atmosphere of early Christianity was full of ideas of intermediary powers and principles, [1 Cor. 8:5. 6.] and by far the most widespread and important of these was Logos, the Greek term for “Word” or “expressed reason”. In view of what the Church believed about Christ, no more fitting name could have been applied to Him. He was the Mediator par excellence; all that had been ascribed to the old intermediaries, and more, was found in Him. Later Christian thinkers made great use of the Logos-idea in discussing the significance of Christ, but it does not occur in the New Testament outside the Johannine writings. No canonical writer alludes so frequently to Christ’s mediatorial function as St. Paul, and yet he never once refers to Him as “the Word”. The Apostle distrusted the wisdom of the world and avoided its terminology; the Christ of the inner life is the dominant factor for him. In the classical New Testament passage for the designation of Christ as the Word, St. John 1:1–14, the central thought of the Article is plainly stated, “the Word” or only-begotten Son “became flesh, and dwelt among us”. The intermediaries of contemporary philosophy were abstractions, and through the Christian use of it the venerable term “Logos” was personalized and enriched by its identification with the Son.
At the human level the relation between father and son is expressed by “begotten”; the father “begets” his son; and since the terms “Father” and “Son” are employed to denote the First and Second Persons in the Trinity, it is inevitable that we should conceive of the relationship between them in this way. But the human analogy is utterly inadequate to indicate the relations in the Godhead. We are in the realm of mystery when discussing this subject, and the inadequacy of human language to describe conditions in ultimate Reality is to be expected. The religious attitude of awe and wonder is appropriate here, not the quest for rational comprehension. It must always be realized that the definition of the Divine Nature was not a problem which the Church’s theologians set themselves; it grew step by step as one opinion after another, incompatible with the faith and religion of the New Testament, appeared and had to be resisted, until the Church’s mind was eventually expressed in the decisions of the Councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451.
The Father-Son relation in the Godhead must be exclusive and without parallel; in St. John’s words, the Son is monogenes, “only begotten”, [Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9.] or as the Apostles’ Creed has it, He is God’s “unique” (unicus) Son. May we venture to think of it in this way – If love is the quality of the inner life of the Godhead, with the Father as Lover and the Son the Beloved, [Ephes. 1:6.] that love is expressed in the eternal generation of the Son. [Jn. 17:24.] Creation is due to an overflowing of divine love, for love desires to share its blessedness; as Plato said, the Creator’s intention was to make something as like Himself as possible, and we should say that under present conditions the divine purpose in Creation is realized in the fellowship of the Church. But the coming of a world order made no difference to the constitution and life of the Godhead; the Father did not beget the Son to be the Agent in Creation as certain heretical teaching maintained. If time began with Creation, the Arians would have agreed that there was no time when the Son did not exist, but they also held that He was not co-eternal with the Father; that He had no distinct being before Creation and outside Time: “there was when the Son was not”. On this view the Son was merely a creature with the rest of creation, which is an unsatisfactory conception of the Person of the Saviour. Hence it became necessary for the Council of Nicaea to affirm in its Creed that the Son was “of one substance with the Father” [This clause in the original Greek text of the Creed means literally “of the same substance as the Father”.] to refute the Arian view that the Son had been created out of nothing and had no community of being with the Father. Article II thus follows the Creed in asserting that the Son was generated out of the Father’s very substance or being, the implication being that He shared the divine essence to the full. Since He is of the same substance as the Father, He is not in any sense inferior to the Father.
(2) The Article then affirms that Jesus was born of a Virgin. Since He is the eternal Son of God, His birth in Bethlehem at a particular time in history was not the beginning of His existence, but only his entry into human life. From the Virgin Mary He received His human nature, without the intervention of a human father. Various attempts have been made to cast doubts on this belief, mainly on the grounds that it is not well authenticated in the New Testament, and may have been derived from similar legends in other religions. But the silence of St. Mark and St. Paul may be due to natural reticence to discuss such an intimate matter. Possible allusions to it have been found in three of the Gospels.* St. Luke has been proved to be an accurate writer, and it is incredible that he should have deliberately given a false account of the Nativity, after saying that he had accurately traced all things from the very first, and wrote “that thou mightest know the certainty of those things”. The alleged parallels in other religions are not so impressive when examined. [Cf. “The Virgin Birth and Recent Discussion” in New Testament Problems, by W. K. Lowther Clarke.] Even though human life normally comes into existence by the union of male and female, it does not follow that the Son of God (Who existed before Creation) could enter human life only by means of such a union. Belief in the Virgin Birth was widely accepted by the time of Ignatius [Ep. ad Eph. 19, ad Trall. 9, ad Smyrna 1.] (c. A.D. 110) and “everything we know of the dogmatics of the early part of the 2nd century agrees with the belief that at that period the virginity of Mary was a part of the formulated Christian belief”. [Dr. Rendell Harris, cited in A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, S.P.C.K. 1928, p. 319.] In addition to the evidence of Ignatius and the Gospel allusions already mentioned, the clause on the supernatural birth is found in the earliest form of the Apostles’ Creed – the Old Roman Creed – which was probably a statement of belief required of candidates for Baptism and dates from about the middle of the second century.
* Matt. 1:18, 20, 24f.; Lk. 1:34f.; Jn. 1:14. It has been suggested that Luke 1:34, 35 is an interpolation, and that St. Luke had no knowledge of the Virgin Birth. But Dr. Vincent Taylor has shown that the two vital verses are “thoroughly Lukan, and no suspicion of textual confusion appears”. Dr. Lowther Clarke has drawn attention to the remarkable parallelism of the Annunciations to Mary and to Zacharias – verse 33–17, 34–18, 35–19, 36–20. If St. Luke – or anyone else – interpolated verses 34 and 35, he must also have interpolated verses 18 and 19 to complete the parallellism!
In this way there were joined in the Person of Christ two natures, the human derived from the Virgin Mother and the divine by the action of the Spirit; it was an indissoluble union, the natures were “never to be divided”. With this conjunction of the divine and human the final work of redemption has begun; now the Seed of the woman is about to bruise the serpent’s head. [Gen. 3:15.]
The Incarnation [The technical term to describe the embodiment in flesh (Latin, in cama) of the Son of God, cf. Jn. 1:14.] is the essential condition of salvation. Only by uniting Himself with the object of redemption, humanity, could the Redeemer effect His purpose. And further, although St. Paul thinks of Christ primarily as Saviour, He is also regarded as Consummator; the entire creation, “the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth”, [Eph. 1:10.] is to be summed up in Him. In what way is this conceivable except by His Incarnation?
Modern knowledge enables us to have a far deeper apprehension of Christ as cosmic Consummator than was possible in the first century. Even if the theory of evolution is accepted in its most rigorous form, so that from the atoms in a nebula to man there has been a continuous development, one state issuing from the preceding one and passing into the next without a break anywhere, this means that in a real sense the whole world order gathered up in man. Were the universe to perish tomorrow nothing of worth would be lost, for its true nature is conserved for ever through the Incarnation of the Word.
(3) It follows from the preceding statements that if Jesus was “of one substance with the Father” and was born of the Virgin “of her substance”, then in Him “the Godhead and Manhood were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man”.
The New Testament writers plainly declare the deity of Christ. They record the voice from heaven that declared Him to be the Son of God at His Baptism [Matt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11.] and again at His Transfiguration. [Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:35.] They support that declaration with the testimony of Jesus Himself, [Mk. 14:16f; Jn. 5:17ff.; 17:l, et.al.] and of John the Baptist, [Jn. 1:34.] the disciples, [Mtt. 14:33; Jn. 6:69.] and even evil spirits. [Lk. 4:41.] St. Paul asserted that “in Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead”, [Col. 2:9.] and the Apostolic Church had no doubt about His Divine Nature. [Jn. 1:1, 18; Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 1:19; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1.]
But it is equally evident that He was also perfectly human. He grew and developed in body, mind and soul. [Lk. 2:40, 52; Heb. 5:7–9.] He displayed human emotions such as sorrow, [Mk. 14:33f.] sympathy, [Jn 11:33.] astonishment, [Mk. 6:6; Lk. 7:9.] anger, [Mk. 3:5.] and experienced hunger, [Mtt. 4:2.] thirst, [Jn 4:7ff.] and weariness. [Mk. 4:38.] He was in all points tempted like as we are, [Heb. 4:15; 2:18; Lk. 4:2.] He experienced all the desires common to us, * and His knowledge appears to have been limited for He sometimes asked questions to obtain information. [Mk. 9:21; Jn. 11:34; cf. Mk. 13:32.]
* There is therefore nothing inherently sinful in our natural desires; only the over indulgence or abuse of them is sinful. For instance thirst is a natural desire, but if over indulged it can lead to drunkenness. “For whatsoever is naturally in us, is naturally in Him; but a man is not a man without natural desires; therefore these were in Him, in Him without sin; and therefore so in us without sin” – Jeremy Taylor, A Further Explication of the Doctrine of Original Sin. VI. 30.
At first sight it may appear that these two sets of facts are contradictory. For instance, God is omniscient, we cannot imagine His knowledge as being limited in any way. Hence, if Jesus possessed “all the fulness of the Godhead” we would expect Him to be omniscient too; how then do we explain His apparent limitations? In short, how could He be Son of God and also perfectly human? It was in attempting to answer this question that many ancient writers fell into heresy. Possibly the simplest explanation is to follow St. Paul’s suggestion that Jesus “emptied Himself”. [Phil. 2:5–8.] When he came down to earth He laid aside His glory, but not His Godhead. In order to have a real and complete human experience He willed that His divine knowledge might be restrained, so that He might fully share the normal human experience of growing “in wisdom and stature”.*
* Luke 2:52. “The omniscience of God does not mean that it is incapable of limitation, but rather that, with more power than finitude has, it is also more capable of limitation. Only it is self-limitation: He limits Himself in the freedom of holiness for the purposes of His own end of infinite love.” P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, (1909), p. 311.
(4) Finally, the Article affirms the reality and purpose of our Lord’s death and passion, that He “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.”
In the Greek culture in which Christianity spread, the remoteness of the divine Nature from earthly conditions was the prevailing idea; physical existence was despised, the body was regarded as “the tomb of the soul”, to escape from which was salvation. With an intellectual background like this the conception of a God-Man was extremely difficult; it was unthinkable that a divine Being should undergo the privations, sorrows and sufferings of our mortal lot. Yet the Christian tradition of the life of Jesus contained in the Gospels presents Him as pre-eminently the Man of Sorrows. Heresy appears to have originated in an attempt to solve the problem by denying the human side of Christ’s Person – a tendency which is not unknown in our own day and generation, though, perhaps for different reasons. Jesus, it was suggested, was immune against our common temptations and infirmities; He only “seemed” to suffer and die, but did not really, and the Gospel evidence for such things was the account of a huge pretence. Already towards the end of the first century this teaching was considered the arch-enemy of the Faith, the very spirit of Anti-Christ, [1 John 4:2.] and it is against it that the Article asserts that Christ “truly (vere) suffered, was crucified, dead and buried”.
An interesting question, at one time much debated, is whether the Word would have assumed our humanity had there been no sin in the world. If man had always acted according to the law of his being and been obedient to God’s will for him, would the Incarnation still have happened? Since the world was created in God’s love, and it is the nature of love to seek the closest contact possible with its object, it would seem to follow that the Incarnation is implied by the divine character. But in fact the Incarnation is everywhere in the New Testament associated with sin and its remedy, as Article II asserts. “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him”; [Jn. 3:17. (R.V.)] in such words the uniform teaching of the New Testament on the purpose of Christ’s coming is concisely expressed. In the words of the Article, “He is ‘to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men”. It will be noticed, however, that the Article reverses the regular scriptural phrase; St. Paul speaks of our being reconciled to the Father, never the Father to us. [Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:18f.; Col. 1:20.] No doubt the words of the Article are aimed at the Socinian heresy which held that there was no reaction in God against sinners; no divine wrath to be met by Christ’s atonement. But the truth is that being under the wrath of God is an outstanding feature of the human situation in the New Testament, and deliverance from it is one great result of the saving work of Christ. [Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18, 5:9; Eph. 2:3, 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:10, 2:16.] The death of Christ is a sacrifice, [Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:26.] and a propitiation [Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2, 4:10.] both for original guilt, that is, the innate evil tendency within us, and also for the particular sins in which it issues.
Two things are necessary for right thinking about the Death of Christ as a sacrifice. First, it is the sacrifice of a person, and therefore is on a different plane from animal sacrifice; and secondly, it must be seen as the decisive test of obedience to the Father’s will. [Phil. 2:8.] It is in the Death itself, as the demonstration of utter dedication and absolute commitment, and not in the form it takes that its sacrificial character lies.
This quality of Christ’s sacrifice also relates to the fundamental need of humanity, the conquest of sin, which St. John says is “lawlessness” or disobedience. Its disobedience is what is radically wrong with the human race, and from which it requires to be redeemed.
St. Paul in an important passage contrasts Adam’s disobedience and its consequences with Christ’s obedience and its effect: “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” [Rom. 5:19.] Christ’s life of perfect obedience to the divine will and the death on the Cross belong together; in a fallen world like ours the one leads to the other [1 Cor.2:8.]: the Cross is not an arbitrary demand of God.
The New Testament represents Christ’s atoning death, so necessary for human salvation, [Heb. 9:22f.] as the fruit of God’s love toward us, [Rom. 5:8; 1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5.] effecting perfectly what ancient sacrifices could only do imperfectly; [Heb. 9:9–16.] purging from guilt and cancelling condemnation; [Rom. 8; 1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5.] averting wrath and opening the way for mercy; [Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2.] a most powerful incentive to repentance and a life of sacrifice and service; [Rom. 6:1ff.; 1 Cor.6:20.] effecting our redemption from wrath, [Rom. 5.9.] from the power of sin, [Rom. 6:6; 8:2.] from bondage to Satan, [Heb. 2:14.] from the tyranny of the evil world, [Gal. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:18.] and from the effects of sin in death. [1 Cor. 15:20ff.] Through the death of Christ, the lives of men and their relationship with God have been transformed. They have found peace with God, [Rom. 5:1.] forgiveness of sins, [1 Jn. 4:10.] experienced new life [1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 6:3–11.] and a capacity for righteousness, [1 Cor. 6:9–11.] and fellowship with God. [Ephes. 2:12–19.] That such experience is no mere figment of the imagination, is proved by the changed conduct and amazing spirit of fellowship in the Christian community. [Acts 2:42, 47.] Reconciliation with God promotes reconciliation with our fellowmen, for faith without works is dead. [Jas. 2:14ff.; Mtt. 25:31ff.]
Article III: Of The Going Down of Christ Into Hell
[The original Article of 1553 as written by Cranmer included the words: “For the body lay in the sepulchre until the Resurrection; but His ghost departing from Him, was with the ghosts that were in prison, or in hell, and did preach to the same as the place of St. Peter doth testify” (a reference to 1 Pet. 3:18, 4:6). But this clause was omitted at the revision of the Articles in 1563.]
As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also it is to be believed that He went down into hell (ad inferos decendisse).
Christ died on Good Friday, His body was buried and remained in the grave until His Resurrection, but where was His soul during that period? The Article, like the Apostles’ Creed, merely affirms that “He went down into hell”. Unfortunately, the word “hell” is often misunderstood, because it is used in the Authorized Version to translate two different Greek words – gehenna which means the place of torment, and hades which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol, meaning “the place of departed souls”. By the “descent into hell” we mean that our Lord’s soul went on Good Friday to “the place of departed spirits” where the souls of all men go at death to await the resurrection.
The fact of His descent into Hades is undisputed and is clearly taught in Acts 2:27, 31, where St. Peter interprets the words of Psalm 16:10 as being fulfilled in Christ, explaining that the Psalmist “foreseeing this, spake of the Resurrection of Christ, that neither was He left in Hades nor did His flesh see corruption” (R.V.). Thus St. Peter obviously believed that Jesus was in Hades between His death and His Resurrection.*
* Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. V.xxxi.l) quotes St. Matt. 12:40 and Ephes. 4:9 as evidence of the Descent; other early writers cite Matt. 12:29; 8:11; Luke 13:28f.; Col. 2:15; Heb. 11, 12.
But while the fact of His descent is generally accepted, the purpose of the Descent has been the subject of controversy. On the one hand, 1 Peter 3:18 and 4:6 have been interpreted as meaning that our Lord’s human spirit went to Hades to preach to the souls of the departed. This appears to have been the general view of the Reformers.* On the other hand, 1 Peter 3:18ff. was seldom used in the Patristic writings as evidence of the descent into Hades, [E. G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter (1947), p. 340.] and the idea of Christ “preaching” to the dead does not appear to have been taught in the Church before A.D. 150. [E. G. Selwyn, Op. cit., p. 343f.] There are weighty reasons for believing that “the spirits in prison” in 1 Peter 3:19 refers not to the dead, but to archetypal spirits of evil. [Ibid., p. 353.] The present Article does not commit us to any particular interpretation of that passage.
*As is evidenced by the 1553 Article and by the statement in the Catechism of 1554: “Then He truly died . . . not only the living but the dead, were they in hell or elsewhere, they all felt the force of His death, to whom lying in prison (as Peter saith), Christ preached, though dead in body, yet re-lived in spirit.” Note also that 1 Pet. 3:17–22 is the Epistle for Easter Eve in the Prayer Book.
The really important point, beyond dispute, is that Christ has shared in every human experience, even in death. Whatever lies before us, He has endured it first and emerged victorious. “Christ in dying shared to the full our lot. His body was laid in the tomb. His soul passed into that state on which we conceive that our souls shall enter. He has won for God and hallowed every condition of human existence. We cannot be where He has not been. He bore our nature as living; He bore our nature as dead. . . . it carries light into the tomb. But more than this we dare not say confidently on a mystery where our thought fails and Scripture is silent”. [B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 77.]
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.
This Article was composed by the English Reformers in 1553, and contains five positive assertions:
(1) “Christ did truly rise again from death”. Jesus often predicted that He would rise again on the third day, [Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:63; Mk. 8:31; 9:9; 9:31; 10:34; 14:28, 58; Lk. 9:22; 18:33; Jn. 2:19–21.] but His disciples did not understand His predictions [Matt. 16:22; Mk. 9:32; Lk. 18:34.] and in fact believed that His death was the end of all their hopes. [Lk. 24:21.] After the Crucifixion they lived in fear, [Jn 19:38; 20:19.] and sadness, [Lk. 24:17.] and so little were they expecting His resurrection that at first they refused to believe that it could be true. [Mk. 16:11; Lk.24:22; Jn. 20:25.] The women who first discovered that He was risen had gone to the tomb with the intention of anointing His dead body. [Mk. 16:lff.] This evidence of the unexpectedness of the Resurrection is very important, for it rules out any possibility that the witnesses of the Resurrection were suffering from hallucinations. Men do not imagine what they do not believe or expect.
Proof of the Resurrection rests on the cumulative effect of several lines of evidence:
(a) The number and variety of those who saw the risen Christ – Mary of Magdala and her companions, [Matt. 28:1–10; Mk. 16:1–11; Lk. 24:1–12; Jn. 20:l–18.] Simon Peter, [Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5.] Cleopas and his companion, [Mk. 16:12ff.; Lk.24:13–35.] the Ten and others, [Lk. 24:36–43; Jn. 20:19–21; 1 Cor. 15:5.] Thomas and the other Disciples, [Jn. 20:26–28.] the Seven by the Sea of Galilee, [Jn. 21:l–23.] the Eleven on the Mountain, [Mtt. 28:16–20; Mk. 16:15ff.] “above five hundred brethren”, [1 Cor. 15:6.] James, [1 Cor. 15:7.] the Eleven before the Ascension. [Mk. 16:19f.; Lk. 24:50–52; Acts 1:4–11; 1 Cor. 15:7.] After the Ascension Jesus was also seen to be alive by Stephen, [Acts 7:55f.] Saul of Tarsus, [Acts 9:3–9; (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8); Acts 18:9f.] and the Apostle John. [Rev. 1:10–17.] Perhaps the most important of all these witnesses is Saul of Tarsus, for no evidence is more convincing than that of a zealous Jew who was determined to stamp out Christianity, yet the evidence of his own senses compelled him to realize that Jesus was alive – which could only mean that what the Christians said about the Resurrection must be true.*
*“Lord Lyttelton and his friend Gilbert West left Oxford University at the close of one academic year, each determining to give attention respectively during the Long Vacation to the Conversion of St. Paul and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, in order to prove the baselessness of both. They met again in the autumn and compared experiences. Lord Lyttelton had become convinced of the truth of St. Paul’s conversion, and Gilbert West of the Resurrection of Christ”, Griffith Thomas, Principles of Theology, p. 79f.
(b) All the Evangelists record that the tomb was empty [Mtt. 28:6; Mk. 16:6; Lk. 24:3; Jn. 20:2–9.] on the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. [Mtt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Jn.20:1.] There are differences of detail in the accounts of what took place on the first Easter morning. But that is to be expected in the testimony of independent witnesses; if the accounts were identically the same we would suspect that they derived from a single source, or were even the result of deliberate collusion. The differences between the four accounts are no greater than we find between Press reports of a particular current event—different witnesses record their own impressions, and some give details omitted by others, but, the main facts are the same.
The fact that the tomb was empty on Easter morning must be explained.
Either Jesus rose from the dead or someone rolled away the huge stone of the tomb that was sealed and guarded,[Matt. 27:62–66.] and took His dead body from the tomb. If the Jews did so, they had only to produce the dead body to refute the preaching of the Apostles, but no body was ever produced. It is incredible that the soldiers should have stolen the body which they had been ordered to guard. The fact that the Jews tried to make people believe that the disciples had stolen the body, [Mtt. 28:11-15.] is further proof that the tomb was empty, but it fails to explain the subsequent life of the disciples. Men do not readily endure persecution and death to perpetuate a falsehood. The suggestion that Jesus was not really dead but only swooned on the Cross is contrary to the evidence that the soldiers did not break His legs for they “saw that He was dead already”. [Jn. 19:33.] Furthermore, if He only swooned, when did He finally die ? The piercing of His side made doubly sure that He did not remain alive. [Jn. 19:34.]
(c) The fact that a great change took place in the disciples must be accounted for. The fear [Jn. 19:38; 20:19.] and sadness[Jn. 20:11; Lk. 24:17.] which characterized them after the Crucifixion was transformed into fearless boldness[Acts 4:13, 19f.; 5:27–29.] and gladness. [Lk. 24:41; Jn. 20:20; Acts 2:46.] The Resurrection of Jesus accounts adequately for their transformation; no other adequate explanation has been offered. “Jesus and the Resurrection” was the main theme of the Apostolic preaching. [Acts 17:18, cf. 2:32, 36; 3:15; 5:30, 32; 10:40; 13:30; 17:31; 26:23; 1 Cor. 15:1–9.] Were the Apostles deliberately propagating a deceitful lie? Such a suggestion does not bear close scrutiny. “Nothing was easier than to subject them to cross-examination, as indeed the Acts tells us was done. Is it likely that these simple-minded provincials would have consistently maintained their position throughout a cross-examination, if their bona fides had not been beyond reproach? Peter, we are told, broke down and lost his nerve at a sudden question from a maid servant. Judas Iscariot’s defection would surely have been followed by the defection of others had there been an uneasy conscience anywhere among the disciples.” [W. K. Lowther Clarke, New Testament Problems, 1929, p. 106.]
(d) The fact that the Christian Church observes “the first day of the week” [Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; cf. Mk. 16:1; Jn. 20:1.] as the distinctively Christian day of worship, instead of the seventh day of the week (the Jewish Sabbath). Why did the first day of the week become the Christian day of worship, if it was not in commemoration of the Resurrection? In the distinctively Christian service, “the breaking of bread”, Christians do not commemorate a dead Master, but have communion with a Living Lord, and Baptism loses much of its – significance if Christ did not rise from the dead. [Rom. 6:4.] How did Sunday and the two Sacraments of the Gospel come to be so closely linked with the Resurrection of Christ if no resurrection took place?
(2) He “took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature”. This statement is obviously based on St. Luke 24:39. The Article must therefore be interpreted in accordance with the Scripture passage on which it is based, and the latter must be understood in its context. Jesus appeared so suddenly to the disciples that “they were terrified and affrighted and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” In order to convince them that they had not seen a ghost Jesus said, “Handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me having” (R.V.). When He saw that they “still disbelieved” [Lk. 24:41 (R.V.).] He asked for some food and ate it before them. But it does not necessarily follow that His resurrection-body was therefore in no respect different from His natural body. “The alternative – “either a ghost, or an ordinary body needing food” – is false. There is a third possibility: a glorified body, capable of receiving food. Is there any deceit in taking food which one does not want, in order to place others, who are needing it, at their ease? [A. Plummer, International Critical Commentary, St. Luke, p. 560.] Our Lord’s purpose was to emphasize that His Resurrection was an objective reality, and to assure the disciples that they were not merely seeing a ghost. But His resurrection-body was a glorified body which was not subject to the limitations of our human bodies. At will, He could make Himself known [Matt. 28:10; Mk. 16:12; Lk. 24:31; Jn. 20:16.] or unknown, [Lk. 24:15f; Jn. 20:14f.] He could appear [Mtt. 28:9; Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:36; Jn. 24:14, 19.] and disappear [Lk. 24:31.] without warning and within closed doors.* Yet though His body was glorified, continuity was preserved with His natural body.** The Article was intended to refute an Anabaptist error that after the Resurrection our Lord’s humanity was absorbed into His divinity. It asserts that He rose and ascended with “all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature.”
*Jn. 20:19, 26. “Our Lord returned to the Father not as He came, but forever united with human nature, the Word made Flesh. But the Resurrection had placed the flesh of the Word so far under the control of the Spirit that His body as the Gospels show, was, even before the Ascension, independent, when He so willed, of the laws that govern matter”, H. B. Swete, The Ascended Christ, p. 8.
**“While there was the glorifying of His Body to which the narratives testify, there was also the continuity of the whole manhood, body and spirit, raised from death. The Son of God took upon Him the whole of human nature (often in the New Testament the word “flesh” is so used) in order that the whole might be raised in glory”, A. M. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ, 1945, p. 103f.
(3) “Wherewith He ascended into heaven.” Immediately we begin to discuss the life after death we are faced with the inadequacy of language. [Note the variations of language used to describe the Ascended Lord in 1 Pet. 3:22; Acts 1:11; Ephes. 1:20; Heb. 7:26; Ephes. 4:10 (R.V.); Heb. 4:14] Every word which we use in speech or writing has a definite meaning associated with this earth, and is therefore totally inadequate to describe a different mode of existence. Hence we can only describe our Lord’s Ascension with the aid of metaphors and symbols. In this age of Earth Satellites and Moon Rockets it is important to remember the limitations of language when we speak of “going up” to heaven. “We are not to think of the Ascension of Christ as of a change of position, of a going immeasurably far from us. It is rather a change of the mode of existence, a passing to God, of Whom we cannot say that He is ‘there’ rather than ‘here’, of Whom we all can say ‘God is with me’, and if God then Christ Who has ascended to the right hand of God. When therefore we declare our belief in Christ’s Ascension, we declare that He has entered upon the completeness of spiritual being without lessening in any degree the completeness of His Humanity”. [B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 80f.]
The Gospels are primarily concerned with our Lord’s earthly life and only refer incidentally to the Ascension. [Mk. 16:19; Lk. 24:51; Jn. 3:13; 6:62.] Some such event was necessary to indicate that the post-Resurrection appearances were not to continue indefinitely. But the writers of the Acts and Epistles emphasize its greater significance as God’s exaltation of Christ [Phil. 2:9.] and His coronation. [Heb. 2:9; 1 Cor. 15:25.] He is now “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. [Rev. 19:6.] Much of the Epistle to the Hebrews is concerned with the High Priestly life of the Ascended Lord. [Heb. 4:14f.; 5:10; 8.] “His presence in the Holiest is a perpetual and effective presentation before God of the sacrifice once offered ... . He offers Himself as representing to God man reconciled, and as claiming for man the right of access to the Divine presence.” [H. B. Swete, Op. Cit., p. 43; cf. Heb. 7:26.] His Ascension was “expedient” [Jn. 16:7.] for all His disciples, for His new position of authority and power enables them to do “greater works” [Jn. 14:12, cf. Acts 2:33, Ephes. 4:8.] through His grace and abiding Presence [Mtt. 28:20; 18:19f.] with them.
(4) “And there sitteth”. As in the Creeds, the language is metaphorical [The symbolism is borrowed from Ps. 110:1, which had been cited by our Lord (Mk. 12:36) and was used by St. Peter (Acts 2:34). The early Church accepted the idea (cf. Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).] and means that the Ascended Lord has been raised to the position of supreme authority and power. [Ephes. 1:20–23 (R.V.), cp. Matt. 28.] Though He is described as “sitting” He is not inactive. He shares all the experiences of the Church, even in persecution. [The Acts 9:4f. “Why persecutest thou Me?” i.e., persecution of the Church is persecution of Christ.] He bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:33.] He is our Mediator, [Heb. 8:6, etc.] Intercessor, [Rom. 8:34.] and Advocate [1 Jn. 2:l.] with the Father.
(5) “Until He return to judge all men at the last day”. Belief in a future “Day of the Lord” which would bring vindication to the righteous and condemnation to the wicked was familiar to our Lord’s contemporaries and to all who read the Jewish Bible. [Amos 5:10ff.] In much of our Lord’s teaching about His Return in judgement He used phrases and metaphors that were familiar to His hearers. But He added to contemporary beliefs the idea that He himself would return unexpectedly, [Mtt. 24:27, 42f.] “in glory”, [Mtt. 25:31–46.] as the Judge, [Mtt. 24:30f.; Jn. 5:22, 25.] to render to every man according to his deeds. [Mtt. 7:21; 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10.] The final Judgement is generally associated with the resurrection to judgement of “the quick and the dead”. [Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9f; 1 Pet. 4.] Various conceptions of Judgement are to be found in the New Testament. Some of the Apostles thought it would take place before their deaths. [1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51; Jn. 21:22f.] Other writers have suggested that judgement is more of a present process than a future event, [Jn. 12:31.] though this view is not inconsistent with belief in a final Judgement yet to come. [W. G. Wilson, Church Teaching, 1954, p. 51.] The Article is more explicit than the Creeds, inasmuch as it speaks of the Judgement as taking place “at the last day”. [Jn. 12:48; Acts 17:3.] Belief in a future judgement when we must render account of our lives is a fundamental part of the Gospel. [Acts 24:25; Rom. 2:15f.; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 6:2; etc.]
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.
This short Article deals with the nature of the Holy Ghost and His relationship to the Father and the Son. It affirms the deity of the Holy Ghost, * that He is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father, “very and eternal God”. [Heb. 9:14; He existed before Creation (Gen. 1:2).] The Apostles believed in the unity of the Godhead, [1 Cor. 8:6.] yet the evidence of the New Testament indicates certain inner distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which can only be expressed by using the word “Persons”. The Holy Spirit is a person, because He works by personal activities such as teaching, [Jn. 14:26.] making intercession, [Rom. 8:26f.] witnessing, [Jn. 15:26.] and leading. [Gal. 5:18.]
*Acts v.3f. (lying to the H.G. is lying to God); Mk. 3:29 (blasphemy against the H.G. is a sin); 1 Cor. 3:16 (those in whom the Spirit dwells are God’s temple, i.e., dwellingplace). This Article was added in 1563 from the Lutheran Confession of Würtemberg. It was probably included to complete the statement of Catholic doctrine in Articles I–IV, and to condemn those who followed Arius in regarding the Holy Spirit as the “creature of a creature”.
“Proceeding from the Father and the Son” is a technical phrase used by St. Augustine to describe the relationship between the Persons in the Godhead. The word “proceeding” is used as in John 15:26: “When the Advocate 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.” Here, as elsewhere in the New Testament, the Spirit is represented as sent by the Son from the Father. In fact, He is called “the Spirit of Christ” [Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; 1 Pet. 1:10f.] and “of Jesus”, [Acts 16:7 (R.V.).] as well as the Spirit of God, [Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16.] and He was bestowed by the Son on the Apostles. [Jn. 20:22.] But if in time, historically, we speak of the Holy Spirit as “proceeding” from the Father and the Son, we can only describe His relationship to the Father and the Son in eternity by using the same language. “Just as His temporal mission was from the Father through the Son, just as the Holy Spirit Who descended at Pentecost was the Spirit not only of the Father but of the Son, so within the eternal life of God He received His being not directly from the Father, but mediately through the Son. The Divine essence was conceived as eternally passing from the Father through the Son into the Spirit” [J. Bicknell, Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles, 1961, p. 123.] From the time of Tertullian the formula had been “proceeding from the Father through the Son”, [J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 1950, p. 358.] but fourth-century writers argued from John 14:16 (“He – the Spirit – will receive of Mine”) that the Son conjointly with the Father was productive of the Holy Spirit. Augustine, who believed that what could be predicated of one of the Persons could be predicated of the others, did much to promote this view, which won universal acceptance in the Western Church in the 5th and 6th centuries. The original form of the Nicene Creed merely had “who proceedeth from the Father”, but the words “and the Son” (called the Filioque clause) came to be inserted at an early date in local Latin Creeds. [The Filioque clause seems to have been first inserted in the Creed by the Spanish Church in the fourth century, and was later accepted by other provincial Churches, including the English Synod of Hatfield (A.D. 680).] The Eastern Church believes that the Father alone is the source or fountainhead of Deity, and has refused to add the Filioque clause to the Creed. Eastern theologians say that the Western Church has acted irregularly in doing so, for the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) ordered that no additions should be made to the Creed without the authority of a General Council. To avoid this criticism the Papacy did not allow the Filioque clause to be inserted in the Creed used in Rome, until about the 11th century, though it had become part of the Creed centuries earlier in Spain, France, Germany, and North Italy. [J. N. D. Kelly, Op. cit., p. 366.] The clause has been the subject of much controversy between the Eastern and Western Churches, and is still regarded by some theologians as an important doctrinal barrier to reunion. If the Western Church were now to drop the Filioque clause it might be regarded as placing the Son in an inferior position.
Chapter II – The Scriptures And Creeds
Article VI: Of The Sufficiency Of The Holy Scriptures For Salvation
[The first paragraph of this Article is based on a similar statement in the 5th of the Forty-two Articles of 1553. The rest of the Article was added in 1563, except for the Apocryphal books marked † which were added in 1571.]
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 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, The I Book of Samuel, The II Book of Samuel, The I Book of the Kings, The II Book of the Kings, The I Book of Chronicles, The II Book of Chronicles, The I Book of Esdras, The II Book of Esdras, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher; Cantica, or Songs of Solomon; Four Prophets the Greater, Twelve Prophets the Less
And the other Books (as Heirome [The Old English form of Hieronymus, or Jerome, one of the great Latin Fathers (A.D. 342–420), whose translation of the Scriptures into Latin formed the basis of the Vulgate version.] saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet it doth not apply them to establish any doctrine. Such are these following:
The III Book of Esdras, The IV Book of Esdras, The 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 Story of Suzanna, Of Bel and the Dragon,† The Prayer of Manasses,† The I Book of Maccabees, The II Book of Maccabees
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account them Canonical.
Articles I–V form a natural group treating of the Christian conception of God, the Trinity, and of the historical manifestation of the Son for our salvation. Except for the differences between Eastern and Western Christendom over the double procession of the Holy Spirit, all the great Churches are agreed on these essential doctrines of the Faith. The present Article deals with a question connected with the controversies of the Reformation, and which arose out of a renewed appreciation on the Protestant side of the unique authority of Scripture for Christian faith and practice, as against the beliefs and customs of ecclesiastical tradition. The Article does not deny a place to devout opinion and sentiment, and suggestive ceremonial, in which Christian thought and feeling have found expression down the centuries; but it does declare that such things are not necessary for salvation, and it admits no ground by which they can be put on a par with the teaching of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.
Now in order to think intelligently today of this supreme position of the Bible in the Church, it is of primary importance to have a right idea of what the Bible is. It is laid down in our Article that Scripture is the authoritative source of a saving knowledge of God, “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”. This view of Scripture as the repository of essential truth brings our Article right up to date, for it is as the record of God’s mighty acts of salvation that the best modern scholarship approaches its interpretation: the Bible is above everything the history of redemption. It tells of God’s call to responsive souls like the patriarchs, of the deliverance of His chosen people to whom He revealed His Law by Moses, and later sent the prophets with His message, of the lessons of the people’s chastisements and restorations, until in the fullness of time He sent His Son. [Mk. 12:6; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:1f.]
There is nothing even remotely comparable to this long process of the divine education and discipline of Israel elsewhere in the history of religion; if God has been pleased to communicate a knowledge of His character and purpose to man at all, then the main stream of His revelation lies through Israel. During this period of religious development the word “salvation” bore various meanings – it might refer to deliverance from calamity or oppression as well as forgiveness of sins: both ideas occur together in the Benedictus. [Lk. 1:68–79.]
The salvation which Jesus wrought related to the removal of the guilt and power of sin, and His exhortations to repentance imply a sin-consciousness among those whom He addressed. An adequate sense of sin is the outstanding result of Israel’s spiritual training; it made the individual aware of the fundamental wrong in his condition. Such a consciousness of sin is confined to the faith of Israel; the literature of the ancient world has nothing corresponding to the description and confession of sin found in Psalm 51. It was necessary that our Lord, whose mission was to meet this radical need in man, should come to His own people among whom that need was appreciated as it was not by the rest of the world.
The Old Testament is the standard account of religious development in Israel; but it was early perceived by Christians that it was a preliminary movement and incomplete in itself: it was a preparatio evangelica, a preparation for the Gospel. Step by step, and in various ways, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes [Heb. 1:1f.], God had formerly made known His will through the prophets, but now at the dawn of a new age He had revealed the truth fully in a Son. To the Jew, for whom the divine will is entirely contained in the Law (Genesis – Deuteronomy), the Old Testament has a different value from what it has for the Christian who sees in Christ the perfect revealer of God. For the latter it has the limitations of what is introductory and relative to something beyond it. But this is not to deny that the Old Testament is a source of a real knowledge of God. On the contrary, the prophets claimed that they had been admitted into the divine secret; [Amos 3:7.] they appeared before the people with His word and authority, and so we should say that their messages were a true and adequate statement of the divine mind at the stage of the nation’s progress and in the situation when they were delivered.
For centuries before it was adopted by the Christian Church, the Old Testament was the sacred literature of Israel. In II Kings 22 there is a reference to the discovery of the lost book of the Law, and according to the Letter of Aristeas, [It is difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction in the details of the story, but it is fairly well established that the translation of the Pentatench was originated in Alexandria c. 285 B.C.] when Ptolemy II Philadelphus (B.C. 285–247) asked for a copy of their laws for his library in Alexandria, the Jews complied by sending seventy-two scholars to help in translating them into Greek. When the entire Old Testament was eventually translated into Greek it was known as the Septuagint Version (usually designated as “the LXX”), and was popular amongst Jews outside Palestine. A number of other Jewish books written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. were incorporated in the Septuagint, for Jews in different places had different lists of writings which they regarded as “Scripture”. The Palestinian Jews finally fixed their Canonical [The “Canon” is the list of authoritative inspired writings. The word literally means “a rule”, but when used of the Scriptures it means “list”, hence “canonical” means “on the list” of inspired writings.] Books at the Council of Jamnia (c. 90 A.D.). But from the middle of the 1st century B.C. the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria had used and recognized in addition many later writings. The books common to the Palestinian and Alexandrian lists are known, as in the Article, as the Canonical Books of the Old Testament; the “other books” mentioned in the Article are the Alexandrian and other additions known as the “Apocryphal Books”. [Scholars are far from unanimous as to the original language, date and place of composition of some of the books that conic under this heading. For a summary cf. R. H. Charles, Religious Development between Old and New Testaments.] From the LXX they passed into the Latin versions, and thereby into Jerome’s revision, the Vulgate, which became the authorized Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. From the first the Christian Church has used the Old Testament Canonical Books, and for centuries used also the Apocryphal Books. But in formal lists the Church has always, like the Jews, made a distinction between Canonical and Apocryphal Books. This distinction is preserved in the Article, which regards only the Canonical Books as “Holy Scripture”, [Our Lord often used the Canonical Books, but is not recorded in the N.T. as ever having used or cited the Apocryphal Books.] but permits the reading of the Apocrypha “for example of life and instruction of manners” though not for the establishment of any doctrine. The Roman Church, on the other hand, at the Council of Trent included within the Canon most of the Apocryphal Books.
In view of what is said in the Article about the exclusive authority of Scripture, the Jewish attitude is of interest. For Judaism the heart of revelation is the Torah or Law; the other two divisions of the Bible, the Prophets and the Writings, are only so much commentary: anything of worth in them was already there in the Law. “We know that God hath spoken unto Moses” [Jn. 9:29.] was a typical remark from a Jew, and “What is written in the Law? how readest thou?” was a leading question. [Lk. 10:26.] To know all that was contained in the Law was to know all religious truth. Study of Scripture was concentrated on it to see if there was anything which had previously escaped notice or from which a new meaning could be extracted. The Sadducees rejected the belief in angels, spirits and the resurrection, because they did not find them in the Torah.
The Old Testament was the Bible of our Lord and the Apostles; whenever “the Scriptures” are referred to in the New Testament, it is the Old Testament which is meant. Why did the Church, in spite of the hostile opposition shown by the Jewish leaders to Jesus, their continued antagonism to the disciples, and the final break with the Synagogue, still continue to use the Jewish Scriptures? The decisive reason must be our Lord’s own estimate of them. And the point here is not the use He made of them in His teaching, or His appeal to them in His arguments with the Scribes [Mk. 7:5–13; 12:24–27, etc.] (that was the only kind of proof they would accept), for we know that Jesus was His own authority. [Mtt. 5:21f.; 27f, 33f., 38f., 43f.]
The real consideration for the Christian evaluation of the Old Testament is that Jesus saw its fulfillment in Himself and His mission; [Lk. 4:21.] it supplied Him with types of Himself and His work; the purpose of the Scriptures was to testify to Him [Jn. 5:39.]: “for Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness”. [Rom. 10:4.]
In a word, the true meaning of the Old Testament is lost apart from Christ; without Him it is like a fruitless tree.
It was our Lord’s view on the relation between the old revelation and His own which bound them together; the Old Testament became the Church’s first sacred book. And so intense was the conviction that Jesus’ revelation was the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures that it led to the curious denial by some Christians that the Jews had any right to them at all; faith in Christ supplied believers with the key to their interpretation, and therefore, it was suggested, they properly belonged to them alone.
To the Canonical Books of the Old Testament the Church added the more important Christian writings to form the New Testament Canon. In order to preserve the early traditional accounts of the life and sayings of Jesus a written record of them had to be made, and St. Luke tells us that even before he wrote his account of the Gospel there had been several attempts in that direction. [Lk. 1:1.] The writings of the Apostles, the original “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, were also held in high esteem in the Church. But we must guard against thinking that, because these documents were highly prized, that they were at once classed with the Old Testament as Scripture. For some generations Christians found in the Old Testament, although not by any methods of interpretation which would be accepted today, all that they believed about Christ; it was still their Bible. Just as the doctrine of the Trinity was developed in conflict with heresy, so too false tendencies within, the Church (and especially a movement like Montanism in the second century with its claim to a new revelation) compelled it to select from its own literature writings of recognized sanctity, and invest them with canonical authority. [Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, and 1 John were apparently not regarded as “canonical” in Rome when the Muratorian Canon (list) was drawn up (c. A.D. 200). But most of our present N. T. was commonly received by the 4th century.]
Along with the Old Testament Christianity took over from Judaism its attitude towards its sacred writings. For the Jew the Law was God’s word to His people; other books like the Prophets and the Psalms were but aids to the understanding of it. Later rabbinical exposition – “the tradition of the elders” [Mk. 7:3.] – was also respected in this connection. But the Law remained the exclusive standard of reference; there was no second seat of authority. Our Lord came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it, [Mtt. 5:l7f.] and the main fault He found with the Scribes was that their traditional explanations had defeated the intention of the Law and nullified it. [Mk. 7:13.] He went behind tradition to Scripture in the highest sense, the Law itself. While the Church never admitted the special place Judaism assigned to the Law, it followed it in regarding Scripture as the record of revelation and of unique religious authority. Hence our Article emphasizes that “Holy Scripture” (that is, the Canonical Books only) contains sufficient doctrine for 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”. This declaration was directed against the Roman Catholic Church which at the Council of Trent had placed unwritten tradition on a level with Scripture as a source of doctrine. [The Council declared (session iv) that the truth of the Gospel is “contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions”.] Our Church respects and values tradition, as Article XXXIV testifies, but if unwritten tradition is given equal authority with Scripture in establishing doctrine, the way is open for unlimited additions to, and perversions of, the ancient Faith. [For instance, neither the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary nor the dogma of Papal Infallibility can be proved from Scripture; they depend entirely on comparatively modern tradition.] “For we know a doctrine is neither more nor less the Word of God for being written or unwritten; that is but accidental and extrinsical to it; for it was first unwritten and then the same thing was written; only when it was written it was better conserved, and surer transmitted, and not easily altered, and more fitted to be a rule. And indeed only can be so: not but that every word of God is as much a rule as any word of God; but we are sure that what is so written, and so transmitted, is God’s word; whereas, concerning other things which were not written, we have no certain records, no evident proof, no sufficient conviction; and therefore it is not capable of being owned as the rule of faith or life, because we do not know it to be the Word of God.” [Jeremy Taylor, Of the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture, sect.i.]
Some Protestant extremists regarded all Scripture as unnecessary; the Article stresses the necessity of using Scripture as an objective test of doctrine. Only such doctrines as are “read therein” or “may be proved thereby” are to be accepted as Articles of Faith.
Article VII: Of The Old Testament
[Compiled in 1563 from two of the 1553 Articles. The first part of this Article (down to “promises”) was Article VI of 1553, and the remainder formed the first part of Article XIX of 1553.]
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.
It has often been said that the Gospel was rediscovered at the Reformation, but it is certain that with the widespread movement against the degeneracy of the Western Church many fanatical sects arose which restored heresies going back almost to the beginning of Christianity: the association of these byproducts of spiritual revivals with heterodoxy is a curious feature of Church history. The error repudiated in this Article, that there is an opposition between the Old and New Testaments, appeared as early as the first half of the second century, and is chiefly associated with the name of Marcion (c. 135 A.D.). He wrote a book called Antitheses, and as the title denotes, it dealt with the contrasts between the respective teaching of the Testaments. In Marcion’s view creation and redemption were the work of two different Gods: the God of the Old Testament was an inferior Creator. God, “the god of this world”, was the God of the Jews and their Law; the Christian’s God was the supreme Saviour-God, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, the God of grace. The Old Testament was not the account of a divine preparation in history for Christ; He appeared suddenly on earth with a message of redemption from the true God.
On the evidence of the New Testament, and especially with our Lord’s testimony to the witness of the Old Testament to Himself in mind, such a distinction between the two parts of the Church’s Scripture is altogether inadmissible. And if the Old Testament history describes a providential ordering of events with a view to the revelation of Christ, then it must be anticipatory of, and in harmony with, that end – in short, there is a tendency towards the New Testament in the Old. From the Christian standpoint this tendency is due to the direction of the Spirit of Christ. Under that influence, St. Peter says, the prophets eagerly looked forward to the time of salvation, and the manner of its accomplishment. [1 Pet. 1:10–12.] It is in this sense that the Article rightly states that “both in the Old and New Testaments everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ”.
For an appreciation of the Old Testament and its bearing on the New, it is important to trace that meaning that is seeking expression in the characters of its leading personalities and institutions, and in the wonderful prophetic insights, with their feeling of inadequacy and frustration, and yet of certain hope. In our discussion of Article VI we noticed that one of the vital ideas in thinking of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New is that of “fulfillment”. But how that term is to be understood is very important. It is a mistake to suppose that prophetic vision or insight contained a clear picture of the future, every detail of which was realized in the event; prophecy is never equal to fulfillment like that; fulfillment is always richer and more meaningful than prophecy. Fulfillment in relation to prophecy is like Life in relation to its material support. Scientists tell us that after ages of evolution matter became organized in a way that fitted it to be a bearer of Life. But this is not to say that Life is the natural product of the process which preceded it, that it can be resolved into the material synthesis it occupies, and described in terms of physics and chemistry; this is just what cannot be done. No one could foretell from a lifeless world that one day Life would appear in it. Life is more than the fulfillment of all that has gone before; it is the new and unpredictable thing which comes in the fullness of time, and takes for its own use what has been prepared for it. There is a tendency towards Christ in the Old Testament; it is the divine historical preparation for Him. But a tendency towards something, and a tendency to produce it, have to be distinguished. While the ancient Scriptures provided Him with titles, types and illustrations for His Person and work, none of these, nor all of them by themselves, is sufficient for Him. He selects among them, and arranges them in a unity in His Person which surpasses their original sense. Like Life, He is a new synthesis; under the influence of His Personality old religious institutions and prophetic insights are formed into an original spiritual fact. And again, like Life, this new combination of truth cannot be analyzed and explained by what preceded it.
To illustrate this bearing of the Old Testament on the revelation of Christ, let us take the two references which meant most to our Lord Himself, Jeremiah’s great prophecy of the New Covenant, [Jer. 31:31–34.] and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Lord. [Isa. 53.] Jeremiah perceived, as did St. Paul, that a covenant written on tables of stone was not suitable to unregenerate man, and that it must be replaced; at some future time God would make a new covenant “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”, written in the heart. Jesus claimed to institute this New Covenant by His Death. [Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:7.] The very idea of a New Covenant is revolutionary enough, but the point is that not even a Jeremiah could rise above Israelite nationalism; the future Covenant was to remain with the Chosen People. In our Lord’s fulfillment of the prophecy the Covenant is universal; it includes all mankind.
Isaiah’s profound conception of the Suffering Servant derived from reflection on the mystery of the suffering of the agent of God’s purpose. The identity of the Servant is a well-known Old Testament problem. But whether the prophet has in mind his people’s afflictions at the hands of the nations, or the treatment of the prophets by their own people, the thought is the same: willing acceptance of humiliation and suffering is the divine way of reclaiming those who cause them. As the Christ or Anointed One, Jesus was pre-eminently God’s representative, and by taking the Suffering Servant for the type of Himself, He completely transformed the Jewish view of Messiahship. A good example of the Old Testament idea of the Coming One and of what He would accomplish is found in Isaiah 11:1–9: a scion of the House of David will arise, and by overwhelming physical power he will execute judgement, establishing virtue, destroying wickedness, and inaugurating the reign of righteousness and peace. There is no thought here of a Messiah who will give his life as a ransom, and by enduring a shameful death on a Cross will draw all men to Himself. [Mk. 10:45; Jn. 12:32.] The fact is that in the light of our Lord’s revelation the Old Testament takes on a different meaning, and Christians recognized this from the very first. An unmistakable note of wonder at a new discovery appears in the words of the Emmaus disciples: “was not our heart burning within us, while He spake to us in the way, while He opened to us the Scriptures”. [Lk. 24:32; cf. 5:27. N.E.B. has: “Did we not feel our hearts on fire as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”] As read by Christians eyes the Old Testament becomes in the deepest sense a new book; in fulfillment its meaning is transformed.
The Jews divided the Old Testament into three parts:
(1) The Law (comprising the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy [Sometimes “the Law” means the whole contents of the Old Testament (Jn. 10:34; 12:34; 15:25) but it usually means only the Pentateuch.]) was regarded, as we saw in Article VI, as the most sacred part of the Scriptures; (2) the Prophets, which included the chief historical books (viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets); and (3) the Writings (including the Psalms and remaining Old Testament books). Our Lord’s disciples were left in no doubt about His general attitude, for He repeatedly emphasized that what was written “in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms” concerning Him “must be fulfilled” [Lk. 24:44; Mk. 9:11–13; 12:26; 14:49; Lk. 16:17; 18:31; 20:17, 37.] – and the fulfillment was accomplished in the sense which we have indicated. He often cited the Old Testament Scriptures with approval, [Mk. 10:19; 12:29ff; 12:35ff.] and the Apostolic Church freely used them as “witnessing” to Him, [Jn. 5:49, 36; 8:56, Acts 10:43; 18:28; Rom. 3:21; Gal. 3:24 (R.V.).] and regarded them as divinely inspired. [Acts 4:25; Heb. 3:7; 2 Tim. 3:15.]
But the Old Testament is obviously incomplete in itself. While other nations often looked back to a glorious past, Israel looked forward to the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the future. In this respect “the old Fathers did not look only for transitory promises”. The Messianic hope took different forms at different periods in the history of the Jews. Though their ideas of “everlasting life” were vague, and only in the later period of their history did some of them come to believe in a personal resurrection [Acts 23:8, cf. Dan. 12:2.], Jesus showed them it was implied in the language of an earlier age. [Mk. 12:26f., cf. Ps. 16:12.] But without His fulfillment [Mtt. 2:15, 17, 23; 8:17; Jn. 12:38, etc.] and exposition [Lk. 24:27, 44f; Jn. 5:46.] of the prophecies, many parts of the Old Testament would have remained incomplete and incomprehensible. In short, throughout (from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 4:1) it points to Him, and without it much of the New Testament would be meaningless. The inclusion of the Old Testament in the Bible of the Christian Church is therefore fully justified.
The Article declares that “the Old Testament is not contrary to the New”, but that does not mean that its moral and spiritual teaching is throughout on the same level as the New Testament. Though our Lord did fulfill many prophecies, and had no intention of destroying “the Law and the Prophets” [Mtt. 5:17.], He found it necessary to expand and develop – and even to supersede – the teaching of the Old Testament. He showed that an observance of the letter of the Law was not enough, [Mtt. 5:21–48; 12:1–8.] and that the vengeful spirit of parts of the Old Testament was not to be followed [Lk. 9:54ff.; Mtt. 5:43f.] He superseded the Mosaic law on divorce by pointing to a prior principle [Mk. 10:2–12.] and the law concerning clean and unclean meats. [Mk. 7:18f.(RV), cf. Lev. 11.] Following His example [Mk. 7:lf., Lk. 11:38f.] the Apostles regarded ceremonial laws as outdated, [Rom. 14:14; Col. 2:16, 20–22; Tit. 1:15; Galatians (passim).] and in civil matters the general teaching of the New Testament is that Christians are subject to the law of the land, [Acts 22:25.] but there is no appeal to the Civil precepts of the Old Testament. Even Circumcision was superseded by Christian Baptism, [Col. 2:11f.; Acts 15:24.] and “the Lord’s Day”, [Rev. 1:10.] or “first day of the week” [Acts 20:7.] (Sunday) replaced the Sabbath as the Church’s sacred day, since it was the day of Christ’s Resurrection.
Morality, however, belongs to our common humanity, and therefore claims universal allegiance. In the judgement predicted by Amos, [Amos 2:1–8.] Israelite and heathen alike are under moral law. Hence the Article declares that the Ceremonial and Civil precepts of the Mosaic Law are not binding upon Christians, but the Old Testament Moral Law (such as the Ten Commandments, which were endorsed by our Lord [Mark 10:19.] – and the New Testament writers [Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8.]) is binding upon them.
In general the Old Testament is to be regarded as preparatory to the New, [Luke 16:16; Matt. 11:13.] a shadow of the truth as revealed in Christ. [Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 9:9, 15; 10:1; Gal. 3:24 (R.V.).] As such it is to be valued, but its teac hing is to be understood and applied only in the light of Christian principles.
Article VIII: Of The Three Creeds
[This Article was composed in 1553 to affirm the Catholicity of the Anglican Church, and in protest against Anabaptists who rejected all Creeds.]
The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’ 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.
The tendency today is to decry the value of creeds or dogmatic statements of religious belief and to lay the emphasis on Christian character and conduct; how one behaves and not what he believes or professes is the vital matter. When this attitude is examined it becomes clear that it is not really the importance assigned by the Church to its Creeds that is criticized, but human inconsistency. To think before acting is the normal sequence for rational beings, and everyone recognizes that we ought to act in accordance with our convictions; it is weakness, hypocrisy or downright sinful not to do so. Our beliefs on the highest things, about God, ourselves and our fellowmen should determine the quality of our conduct by providing its motives and ends; no man is ever better than the best that he believes. Consistent living demands that behaviour should be the practical issue of inner convictions; the Christian life is properly the complement of the Christian Faith. And conversely, as we have already seen, much of Christian belief is the interpretation of Christian experience. There are revealed truths which are inculcated and accepted in faith, but all they mean cannot be fully appreciated until we have had the experience of acting upon them. The theology of the Gospels is the theology of revelation, which is verified and amplified in the religious experience behind the theology of the Epistles.
Before the earliest books of the New Testament were written, the Apostolic teaching must have been given orally, and there is much evidence that elementary “forms” or summaries of Christian teaching were used in the Church from the middle of the 1st century. Attention may be drawn, for instance, to such phrases as “the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me” [2 Tim. 1:13.] and the frequent occurrence in the Pastoral Epistles of references to “the sound doctrine”, [2 Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:9.] “the deposit”, [1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14. R.V.M.] “the faith”, [1 Tim. 1:19; Tit. 1:13 (R.V.).] and “the excellent teaching”. [1 Tim.4:6. (Greek).] Similar allusions are found in other Epistles to “the faith once delivered to the saints” [Jude 3.] and to “the confession” [Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 10:23.] – all of which suggest a body of objective teaching which was used in giving instruction in the fundamentals of the Faith before any part of the New Testament had been written. Some of these summaries of Apostolic teaching were doubtless used from an early date in the instruction of adult candidates for Baptism, in preaching, and in teaching. [E.g., 1 Cor. 15:3–7; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 1:3f; etc.] Early Baptism was administered “in the Name of the Lord Jesus” [Acts 8:16.], and candidates would be expected to make a simple confession of Christian faith. [Such declarations as “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3) “Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn. 4:15; Acts 8:37), or “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10f.) may have been the earliest baptismal creeds.] When the Church began to administer Baptism in the Name of the Trinity [Mtt. 28:19.] the need for a three-fold confession of faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost led to the development in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of Creeds in the same three-fold pattern. With the growth of the Church, greater care was taken in the preparation of adult converts, and they were taught to express their beliefs by reciting at their Baptism a Creed summarizing fundamental Christian beliefs. In this way “Baptismal Creeds” developed (which varied slightly in details, for local Bishops sometimes added clauses designed to exclude local heresies). Later, with the growth of heresies and false teachers, representatives of the whole Church met together in General Councils, [Cf. Article XXI.] which issued “Conciliar Creeds” summarizing Bible teaching on disputed points of doctrine. Such “conciliar creeds” thenceforth became the standards of correct belief for everyone.
The first General Council (summoned by the Emperor Constantine) opened on 19th June, 325, at Nicaea. [J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 1950, p. 211.] The 318 Bishops present issued a Creed designed to refute the errors of Arius, presbyter of Alexandria, who denied the co-eternity and co-equality of the Son with the Father. It was probably a revised version of an earlier Baptismal Creed [J. N. D. Kelly, Op. cit., p. 229f.] into which they inserted anti-Arian clauses which declared that the Son is “Very God of Very God, begotten not made, Being of one substance with the Father”. The Creed issued by the Council of Nicaea (technically designated by the letter N) was not, however, identically the same as our Nicene Creed. [For instance, it ended with the words “I believe in the Holy Ghost”.] In fact, some scholars have denied any connection between the two, and prefer to call our Creed the “Constantinopolitan Creed”. It is true that the second General Council held at Constantinople in 381 issued a Creed almost verbally identical with our Nicene Creed. [With the notable omission, of course, of the Filioque clause (cf. Article V), and stated throughout in the plural (Baptismal Creeds, as expressing the personal faith of an individual were naturally in the singular, “I believe”; but Conciliar Creeds as expressing the faith of an assembled body were naturally in the plural, “We believe ...”).] But it has been pointed out that the Council of Constantinople “did not conceive of itself as manufacturing a new Creed” [J. N. D. Kelly, Op. cit., p. 325. The same writer points out (p. 307f.) that none of the various Synods that met between 381 and 451 make any reference to a “Constantinopolitan Creed”.], and that the description “the faith of Nicaea” in the fourth century “could equally well be used of a Creed, local or otherwise, which was patently Nicene in its general character, while differing from N in much of its language”. [J. N. D. Kelly, Op. cit., p. 323.] Whoever may have been the original author of the present text of our Nicene Creed, [For a full discussion of the views of various scholars, Ibid. p. 296ff.] it was promulgated by the Council of Constantinople as “the faith of the Nicene fathers” but that faith set forth in a form better adapted than N for dealing with the heresies of the hour. [J. N. D. Kelly, Op. cit., p. 331.] It was also received and endorsed by the fourth General Council at Chalcedon in 451. It thus comes to us as a Conciliar Creed possessing the full authority of the Undivided Church.
The origin and date of the Athanasian Creed has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. [For a summary of the various theories consult Liturgy and Worship, Ed. W. K. Lowther Clarke, 1943, p. 280ff.] Scholars are agreed that Athanasius did not write it, [It was written in Latin, but Athanasius wrote in Greek.] but are less certain as to the identity of the actual author. It was probably written in the 5th or 6th century, and is more a Canticle or Hymn than a Creed. The Orthodox Church of the East has never formally accepted it, and it does not possess the same oecumenical authority as the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds. The American Church has omitted use of the “Quicunque Vult” (as it is commonly called), and its use is optional in the Irish and Canadian Churches. It is a theological statement designed to protect the Faith against heretical views concerning the Trinity, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
For over a thousand years the Baptismal Creed of Western Christendom has been “that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed”. Though not written by the Apostles, it summarizes the Apostolic teaching. [A detailed exposition of the Apostles’ Creed is given by W. G. Wilson in Church Teaching, A Handbook for Members of the Church of Ireland, 1954, pp. 38–59.] In its present form it was used in Gaul c. A.D. 750 but most of its substance can be traced back to a Baptismal Creed used in the Roman Church about the middle of the second century.
Chapter III – The Nature Of Man
Article IX: Of Original Or Birth-Sin
[One of the Forty-two Articles of 1553. Some think it is based on the Second Article of the Augsburg Confession (1530) and came through the Thirteen Articles; others, however, consider the resemblance is too slight, and merely indicates the general consensus of Reformed opinion (Gibson, The Thirty-nine Articles, p. 358).]
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 man 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 the 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.
*The Article assumes a literal interpretation of Genesis 1–3. Many scholars prefer to regard these chapters as an allegory, but whichever view is taken, the spiritual truth suggested is that no man in known to have lived (save Jesus) who did not manifest a tendency towards sin. The doctrine of Original Sin is an attempt to explain the fact of the universal sinfulness of human nature.
This Article relates to another old error which was revived by the Anabaptists of Reformation times, that of Pelagius (a monk of British origin, A.D. 360–420), who denied any distinction between original or birth sin and actual sin, and taught that we begin life with the nature which Adam had when he was created, that is, a nature without a tendency to do what was contrary to God’s commands. The followers of Pelagius, emphasizing the importance of free-will, believed that men are capable by their own efforts of being perfectly righteous; there is nothing in us to prevent natural, spontaneous obedience, but in fact we simply choose to disobey. This view springs from a totally inadequate conception of the nature of sin. To Pelagius, “sin” was only a name for an act which, once committed, is over and done with and does not affect man’s nature. Consequently, he did not believe that men could inherit any inborn tendency to sin. Against this view, the Article asserts that every person “naturally engendered” [Excludes our Lord, whose birth was supernatural (Luke 1:34f.).] possesses a corrupt nature “very far gone” from righteousness and “inclined to evil”. This estimate of human nature is fully endorsed by Scripture [Gen. 6:12; .Job 14:4; 15:14; 25:4; Ps. 14:1; 51:5; Isa. 53:6; Jer. 17:9 (RV); Mk. 7:21f; 10:18 (RV); 1 Jn. 1:8, etc.] and by experience. Our Lord did not explicitly state any doctrine of Original Sin, but He recognized the facts that the doctrine was formulated to express. He always assumed that men are in a state of “fallenness”; that they are sick and need a physician [Mtt. 9:12; Mk. 2:7; Lk. 5:31.]; that evil is present in human hearts [“If ye then, being evil ...” Mtt. 7:11; Lk. 11:11.]; and that men need redemption. [Mtt. 18:11; Lk. 19:10.]
Pagan moralist and Christian Apostle alike testify to the frustrating contradiction which lies at the centre of our personalities. “I see the better things, and approve them; I follow the worse”, says Ovid: “the good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I practice”, says St. Paul. [Rom. 7:19.] What is the cause of this weakness? How is it that if man was made for fellowship with God, and the divine will is the law of his being, obedience is so hard, and the besetting sin so easy? The Article declares that it is the consequence of Original Sin. Instead of being employed in following the course the Creator intended for him, which is the only full and satisfying life possible, man used his capacities for self-centred ends, and they acquired an aberrant rebellious bent, which became hereditary. Our careers do not start on an even keel; urges of self-interest, clamant for expression, have got a start, and consciences and wills, dulled and vitiated by yielding to temptation, are incapable of checking them.
This “fallen” state is the main practical fact about him in the biblical view of man, and although it is never connected in the Old Testament with Adam’s lapse, as it is by St. Paul, much that he says about man’s sinful condition has a parallel there. The human heart is “desperately wicked”, [Jer. 17:9.] and from youth its thoughts are continually evil. [Gen. 6:5: 8:21.] “For from within, out of the heart of man”, says our Lord, “evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man.” [Mk. 7:21–23.] Indeed, our nature is infected with evil from the very beginning. [Ps. 58:3; 51:5.] In Romans 7:7–25 St. Paul gives his classical description of the inner conflict between the impulsion of the flesh (“the law of sin which is in my members”) and his moral judgement, which is also the law of God and approves the Commandments. So far as our psychological make-up is concerned, the evil principle dominates. And if a knowledge of the good is not accompanied by the will-power to implement it, the case is rendered worse; for what was formerly innocent becomes sinful. [Rom. 7:7.] The cry of man in his actual condition is: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of this body of death?”. [Rom. 7:24 (R.V.)] Something must reach us from outside if the deepest human need is to be met. The efficient counteraction to the law of the members is not the law of the mind, but the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. [Rom. 8:12; cf. Phil. 4:13; 2 Cor. 3:5.]
Science has another way of accounting for this fact of the divided self. It would explain the clash of the body’s appetites and instincts with the moral sense as due to the difference between life at the animal and human levels. The supreme aim of every animate creature is to survive; all its activity and habits are directed to that end, and it develops a structure and economy of organism best suited for success: it lives in the service of its own interest. This is the nature, shaped in the struggle for existence, that man has inherited from his animal ancestry. But a nature determined by the unrestricted pursuit of individual ends was not adapted to life in a community, for which man has a strong tendency. A code of conduct was necessary to protect personal rights against the self-seeking of others, and to maintain a stable order of society. It is obvious that covetousness and stealing, hatred and killing, suspicion, deceit and lying do not favour desirable human relations, and must be denounced and prohibited, while their opposites, justice, truth and kindliness are to be inculcated and enjoined. On this theory original sin is not due to the infection of an innocent nature by sin, but to the continuance in us of the law of the jungle; and morality is a rule of behaviour for community life with social requirement for its sanction.
Two comments on this scientific view of man may be made. First, science does not, and properly cannot, say whether pre-human conditions might have been different; but the Bible is also aware of the internecine strife in the animal world, [Isa. 11:6–9; Ps. 104:21.] and says that it is not a natural state of affairs. A “Nature red in tooth and claw” is a Nature in “the bondage of corruption”, to which it was reduced to bring it into conformity with fallen humanity; deliverance from it and entrance into ideal conditions will be one result of redemption. [Isa. 11:9; Rom. 8:21; 2 Pet. 3:13.] Secondly, while science may offer a plausible description of what has actually happened, the reason lies with Christianity why man, after so long a time in barbarism, should at last reach a communal way of life. A creature formed in the image of the God of love was made for life in a social order; the ultimate foundation of morality is the divine intention for man, and not the rule of convenience. This is evident from the complete failure of the evolutionary theory to explain conscience. Conscience demands a loyalty to what is held to be true and right, which is nothing less than the absolute claim of God upon our allegiance. Only the Pauline doctrine that the moral sense is also the divine law for us [Rom. 7:24.] provides an adequate reason why a man will give his life for conscience’ sake, and thus surrender the very thing the entire struggle for existence was concentrated on preserving.
Experience confirms the biblical estimate of man’s fallen condition. “When we look into ourselves we discover the fact, so mysterious to all who believe in a good God, that we find there evil tendencies and desires, similar to those which result in indulgence in actual sin, but which are prior in time to, and independent of; any such actual sin. . . . They are not simply imperfections; they are positively evil. They are loyalties that conflict with and weaken our loyalty to God. Nor do we show any signs of outgrowing them. They do not disappear when we get older. In other words, our nature, as we receive it, appears to be not merely undeveloped but to possess a bias towards evil, a disunion within itself, an inability to rise to higher levels.” [E. J. Bicknell, Essays Catholic and Critical, 1926, p. 206.] Nor is this estimate of human nature confined to theologians. A Nobel Prize winner who has made a scientific study of man and his life, declares “The number of people who are interested in science, letters, and art has grown. But most of them are chiefly attracted by the lowest forms of literature and by the imitations of science and of art. It seems that the excellent hygienic conditions in which children are reared, and the care lavished upon them in schools, have not raised their intellectual or moral standards ... . The environment born of our intelligence and our inventions is adjusted neither to our stature nor to our shape. We are unhappy. We degenerate morally and mentally. The groups and the nations in which industrial civilization has attained its highest development are precisely those which are becoming weaker and whose return to barbarism is the most rapid. But they do not realize it.”. [Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown (1948 Pelican Edn.), pp. 32, 30. Dr. Carrel, a French research scientist, worked in the Rockefeller Institute.] The need for policemen, gaols, and reformatories, and the existence of slave labour camps and “brainwashing” processes in highly civilized nations; the need for societies for the prevention of cruelty to children, and the abundant evidence of tension and friction between individuals and groups – all testify abundantly that man “is of his own nature inclined to evil.”
Whereas the corruption of nature was “not of its own will”, [Rom. 8:20.] but was imposed upon it, man’s culpable failure diminished the natural disposition to obedience of a being made in the divine image (‘original righteousness’), and the resulting inclination to evil “deserveth God’s wrath and damnation”. [Cf. Rom. 1:8; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6.] How could it be otherwise? “How can we suppose that such a nature looks in the eyes of God according to the standard of perfect righteousness which we also suppose to be God’s standard and law? Does it satisfy that standard? Can He look with neutrality on its divergence from His perfect standard? What He may do to cure it, to pardon it, to make allowances for it in known or unknown ways, is another matter about which His known attributes of mercy alone may reassure us; but the question is, How does He look upon the fact of our nature in itself, that without exceptions it has this strong efficacious germ of evil within it, of which He sees all the possibilities and all the consequences? Can He look on it, even in germ, with complacency or indifference? Must He not judge it and condemn it in itself; because evil, deserving condemnation?” [Dean Church, Life and Letters, p. 295. If this seems a harsh doctrine, it is balanced by God’s readiness to justify the sinner (Article XI).]
Common experience, as well as Scripture, teaches that “this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated”. [Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16, 17; 1 Pet. 2:11.] In Baptism the benefits of Christ’s atonement begin to be applied to us, and no account is taken by God of this thing in us which is at enmity with God; so “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”. [Rom. 8:1.] Baptismal regeneration does not involve a break with the innate proneness to evil; but it does mean our introduction to a new life in the Spirit in which we are equipped with power to strengthen us in the struggle which still goes on. [Rom. 8:9, 11, 14; Gal. 5:16, 25.]
Article X: Of Free-Will
[The first part of this article was added from the Würtemberg Confession in 1563. The second part is taken almost verbatim from Augustine’s treatise De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, chap. xvii.]
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.
It would take a substantial volume to give an account of the opinion and arguments which have appeared on the question raised in this Article. What happens when a man passes from his “fallen” state into that of salvation? Is the change due entirely to the operation of divine grace or can man find his way to salvation by himself? Or again, is it brought about by God and man working together? The position adopted in our Article is, as usual, a moderate one, and is in line with the great theological tradition which begins with St. Paul. It asserts that in his lapsed condition man is unable to “turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God.” The good will essential for performing “works pleasant and acceptable to God” comes by His prevenient grace, and this aid must remain with us as cooperative or concurrent grace for the continued exercise of the good will. Grace may be defined briefly as “the power of God that worketh in us”, [Eph. 3:7, 20. Oscar Hardman defines grace as God’s “radiant adequacy”. The Christian Doctrine of Grace, p. 30.] or the “unearned favour” of God. The Article, in common with the Prayer Book, acknowledges that we need God’s help and power to enable us to do His will: “we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves”; [Collect, Lent II; Rom. 8:8.] “because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without Thee. [Trinity I.] God is the source of all goodness, “from Whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed”. [Evg. Prayer, Coll. II., Jas. 1.] Man needs God’s grace, not merely because of “the fall of Adam”, but because his whole life – moral and spiritual as well as physical – is entirely sustained by God, “in Whom we live and move and have our being”. [Prayer for Recollection of God’s Presence.]
The Article mentions two ways in which God’s grace acts:
(1) By “preventing us that we may have a good will” – usually called “prevenient grace”, which goes before (Latin, preavenire) or “prevents” us, [Hence it does not mean “hinder”.] to give us a good will. The term “prevenient” was probably suggested by the Latin of Psalm 59:10, “The God of my mercy will prevent me”. We need the prompting of God even to desire to do what is right, and this truth is emphasized often in the Bible [Jn. 6:44; 15:5 (RV); Acts 16:14; Eph. 1:8; Phil. 2:13( RV).] and in the Prayer Book. [Epiphany I, Easter Day, Trinity IX, XVII.]
(2) By “working with us when we have that good will” – usually called “cooperating grace”. Our Lord [Jn. 15:41, cf. Mk. 16:20.] and the Apostles [Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 3:5f.; Gal. 2:20.] frequently emphasized our need of such grace, and the Prayer Book has many references to our need of “continual” help. [Collects, Trinity IX, XIV, XV.] Several Collects mention both “prevenient” and “cooperating” grace, such as the Post Communion Collect: “Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with Thy most gracious favour, and further us with Thy continual help . . .”. [Cf. Trinity XVII, and Easter Day Collect I.]
We shall never reach a conclusion on a subject like this, which will at least leave us easy minds before the mystery of the divine counsels until we stop thinking of God’s grace versus human freedom, and try to understand them both in relation to God’s purpose of love in creation. God is love, [1 Jn. 4:8, 16.] and love seeks to impart itself, to share its blessedness and evoke an answering love in its object. The divine love is the reason and cause of our existence. But it is the nature of love that it cannot be forced. God wants our responsive love to the love wherein He has created and redeemed us, but it must be freely offered. No matter how deeply we may love our friends, and show it, and desire their affection in return, we cannot compel them to love us. For some selfish end they may pretend to respond; but whether they do so from the heart is their own secret.
The highest form of God’s almightiness is the constraining tenderness of His love; [2 Cor. 5:19, 14.] this is the ultimate power in a moral order. Should the love of God in Christ fail to draw all men unto Him, [Jn. 12:32.] there is no other way. If love is the nature of the relationship between God and us, then it requires on our part the free and glad dedication of ourselves and our lives to His service in responsive love. We are made for freedom; our wills are the great thing about us that God longs to have: He will ever work to win them, but He will never nullify or destroy them, for that would amount to the defeat of His own purpose. Any interpretation of God’s dealings with man which allows no place for a real exercise of moral choice is wrong somewhere.
Man’s unregenerate state is nowhere treated in Scripture as one of total depravity; the divine image in him is not utterly obliterated by his “fall”. Even in heathendom he still has the light of the moral sense and the witness of Nature to its Creator, and therefore is “without excuse”. [Amos 1:3–2:3; Rom. 1:20; 2:11–16.] But can the common intellect and moral judgement of the “natural” man afford fully convincing grounds for believing the Gospel, so that his conduct may be inspired by the Christian motive and “pleasant and acceptable to God” in the highest sense? It does not appear that this is possible, and for this reason. Christianity illustrates the principle of the paradox: that is to say, “things are not what they seem”, we see them “in a riddle”, as St. Paul says, [1 Cor. 13:12.] and the truth about them is not evident. The world’s standards and those of the Christian are poles apart. Christ’s idea of greatness is entirely different from the general one; [Mk. 10:42–45.] “the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God” [1 Cor. 3:19; cf. 1:27.]; the meaning of the Cross is so contrary to men’s way of thinking that it cannot be preached in terms of what they call wisdom, and keep its saving power. [1 Cor. 1:17.] St. Paul is not exaggerating in the sharp contrast he draws between the divine and worldly wisdoms. The reaction of the “natural” man to the Gospel is vividly expressed in an early pagan representation of the central theme of Christian preaching as a human figure with an ass’s head stretched on a gibbet. To the philosopher and those who prided themselves as being versed in the world’s wisdom, Christian preaching sounded like fanatical drivel. [Acts 17:32.]
How can one come to accept the contradiction of the Gospel which sees greatness in service, self-fulfillment. and abundant life through self-effacement and death, glory through humiliation and shame, God’s triumph over the world’s evil in spite of His apparent decisive defeat by it? The intellect asks: “How can these things be?” and has no answer. But Pascal was right; sometimes “the heart has its reasons which the reason does not understand”. In spite of the vast amount of fear that the history of religion shows, there is a deep-seated feeling in the human breast that the power manifested in the universe is beneficent: there is “a Friend behind phenomena”. But can the heart’s desire be trusted? The intellect suspects and doubts, as well indeed it might; but where the head says of the Gospel, “it is too good to be true”; grace whispers to the heart: “nothing is too good to be true; the better it is the truer it is.” At this point faith comes in. Faith is the resolve not only to believe the Christian message as true, but to commit ourselves to it without reserve, to live by it here and now, and to rest our destiny upon it. The teaching of the New Testament is that we are led to belief and trust in the Gospel by the grace of God. [Jn. 6:44; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:9.] At the same time we must make the prompting and encouragement of the Spirit of Grace [Heb. 10:29.] our very own; we must will to believe: “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” [Mk. 9:28.] is the proper approach to the challenge of the Gospel. Preventing grace is like the helping hand extended to one trying to surmount an obstacle, like getting over a stile; but the point is that he wants, and is attempting to do it himself. Embracing the way of salvation (by preventing grace), and walking worthily therein (by cooperating grace), is a joint achievement in which God and man act together [Phil. 2:12, 13.] and since God is no respecter of persons, [Acts 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:17.] it is open to all.
The relationship between God’s grace and man’s free-will has been the subject of much controversy, and is still widely debated. Some, like the Pelagians, believe that the human will can do what is right without prevenient grace; others, like John Calvin, believe that God’s grace cannot be resisted by man’s will. The Article takes an intermediate position between these two extremes. A little consideration will show that man’s will cannot be completely free without grace, [St. Paul had the will to do good, but was unable to do so (Rom. 7:15).] but neither does grace take such control of man’s will as to deprive him of free choice. The true relationship has been summed up in the saying, “Man without God cannot; God without man will not”. Man cannot save himself without God’s grace, but neither does God save any man against his own will. Our salvation depends on our voluntary cooperation with the grace of God.
Article XV: Of Christ Alone Without Sins
[Composed by the English Reformers in 1552 and, except for minor verbal changes, still in its original form. The original title was “No one is without sin but Christ alone”.]
Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, 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.
During the XVIth century the Pelagian view reappeared among some sects that the ideal of Christian perfection was attainable; indeed, a state of sinlessness was to them not merely a possibility, but an actuality. Against this doctrine, the Article asserts that the sole instance of human perfection is Christ; “all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things”; alleged sinlessness is untruthful self-deception. A feature of the Article is the number of phrases taken from the New Testament, chiefly from the Epistle to the Hebrews: “made like unto us in all things, sin only except” [Heb. 2:17; 4:15.]; “Lamb without spot” [1 Pet. 1:19; cf. Heb. 9:14.]; “by sacrifice of Himself once made” [Heb. 9:26; 7:27.]; “all we . . . offend in many things”, [Jas. 3:2.] and the last clause is a quotation of 1 John 1:8.
The first part of the Article affirms the perfection of the human nature assumed by our Lord at His Incarnation to be the instrument of redemption. Constitutionally it was humanity as God intended and created it, consisting of a real body of flesh and blood, a true soul and intellect, all of which were unmarred by sin. [Jn. 8:46; 14:30; 1 Pet. 11:22; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15.] “He was clearly void (from sin), both in His flesh, and in His Spirit”. This distinction between sin in the flesh and in the spirit comes from 2 Cor. 7:1. The disordered state of the instincts and appetites which belong to the flesh and blood of our humanity, what in Article II is called “original guilt”, had no place in the physical side of our Lord’s incarnate nature; with Him biological urge was subject to his complete obedience to the will of God. [Jn. 4:34; 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Jn. 3:5.] But the absence of any innate proneness to sin does not imply that Jesus had no experience of temptation, and that obedience was easy. Temptation in itself is not a bad thing; rather it is the condition of moral and spiritual achievement; where there is no chance of going wrong, there is no virtue in doing the right. The trouble with temptation lies in yielding to it, for that results in a seared conscience and a weakened will. The source of temptation is too readily identified with bodily demands which belong to our present mode of existence, and are in themselves quite legitimate; what has really happened is that instead of functioning under the control of the good will for right purposes, they have gone off on their own in pursuit of unworthy ends. To use Plato’s illustration, our evil affections and passions are like the horses that have got out of the charioteer’s control, and are pulling in different directions.
In our Lord’s case physical needs cannot have been the most serious form of temptation. He never faltered in resolution; His will remained intact. Nevertheless temptation in His case, too, was real; He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. [Heb. 4:15.] (Failure was with Him a theoretical possibility, but not a practical one because He always lived according to the law of our humanity which is obedience to God.) It was in the region of His deepest spiritual experience that temptation usually took shape for Jesus. He Himself said later in His Ministry that the mark of an evil generation was its demand for a sign. [Matt. 12:39.] The fact that His own strongest temptation was to look for a sign is one of the essential points in the account of the Temptation. [Matt. 4:3–11; Lk. 4:3–13.]
By the time that He was about to begin His Ministry at the age of thirty, Jesus must have reflected long on Himself and His mission, and had come to realize that He was in some special sense the Agent of God. The voice at the Baptism confirmed this conviction; He was indeed the Beloved Son. [Mk. 1:11; Matt. 2.17; Lk. 3:22.] The essence of the Temptation is not in Satan’s invitation to satisfy His hunger after the fast in the wilderness, or to accept world power at his hands; it is in the hypothetical clause, “If thou art the Son of God”. Was there any question in Jesus’ mind concerning the truth of the heavenly declaration at the Baptism that He was God’s Son? Did He also require a sign, the evidence of a miracle, to assure Him that His consciousness of God was not deceiving Him? Temptation for Jesus may have assumed the form of misgiving about His trust in God.
His consciousness of His relationship to God included the belief that He was the Messiah or Christ, and for a convenient description of the role of the Messiah, the Benedictus (St. Luke 1:68–79) may be read. He was to be the restorer of the throne of David, who in the power of the Lord would deliver and avenge His people, and establish a reign of bliss. It was in this hope of Israel that Jesus was nurtured.
According to St. Mark 2:20, He realized at an early stage of the Ministry that it would not take this course; the Suffering Servant of the Lord [Isa. 53.], instead of a conquering prince of the House of David, would be His prototype. [Mk. 10:45.] Jesus believed He was the Christ [Lk. 9:20; Mk. 14:61f.]; but could He retain this view in the face of a career which increasingly fulfilled the mission of the Suffering Servant? His fiercest trials and temptations centred in this conflict of conceptions [Lk. 22:28.]: “He trusteth on God; let Him deliver Him now, if He desireth Him: for He said, I am the Son of God”. [Mtt. 27:43.] This was the taunt of the mocking priests at the Cross, but it went straight to the heart of the struggles of Jesus. His faith never wavered; even with the thought of desertion by God in mind, in a final act of utter commitment, He commended His Spirit to the Father’s keeping. [Mk. 15:34; Lk. 23:46.]
The sinlessness of Christ is a condition of His redemptive work. [Cf. 2 Cor. 5:21.] By it He realizes the Old Testament requirement of unblemished sacrifices [Exod. 12:5.]; He is “the lamb without spot”. [1 Pet. 1:19; cf. Jn. 1:29; Heb. 9:14.] In this connection the Epistle to the Hebrews is particularly interesting and suggestive. Its author is a Christian Platonist, the first of a succession of thinkers who have applied Plato’s teaching to interpret the Christian Faith. His argument is that earthly things are but copies of heavenly realities, and as such they are necessarily imperfect. This is true of the Levitical system of the Old Testament, with its priesthood and sacrifice. The Aaronic High Priest was a sinner, who entered once a year on the Day of Atonement into the Holy of Holies with the blood of animals, and there offered sacrifices for his own sins and those of the people. But all this was only a “shadow of the good things to come”. [Heb. 8:5; 10:1.] In Christ the heavenly substance which cast the shadow had come. He is the perfect High Priest, “holy, undefiled, separated from sinners”, who once for all by the offering of His own blood became the Author of eternal salvation. [Heb. 7:26–28; 9:12.]
Christ’s perfection stands by itself; “all we the rest ... offend in many things”. The general assumption of Scripture is the common sinfulness of men, including members of the Church. [Job 15:14; Ps. 14:3; Jer. 2:35; 1 Jn. 1:8f.; Jas. 3:2.] There is no exception; even Apostles admit faults in themselves and in each other. [Gal. 2:11; Phil. 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:15.] Nor does there occur in the New Testament or early Christian history any indication of the later veneration of our Lord’s Mother, which led to the Roman dogma of her Immaculate Conception (1854). Two striking and quite different ideas on our sinfulness have appeared in the history of Christian thought. The first comes from the lives of the saints, and may be called the traditional one. It relates to the fact that progress in sanctification does not bring a weakening of the sense of sin; rather it throws into relief the sin that still remains to be eliminated: the uniform confession of the saints is that they are outstanding sinners. The second idea is that of perfectionism, the belief that it is possible even now to be free of sin, and appeal is made to Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant as the sin-bearer [Isa. 53:12; Heb. 9:28.], which are applied to our Lord. The advocates of perfectionism also cite 1 John 3:9: “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”. On the basis of these words it is argued that perfection is a practical possibility. On the other hand, in the same Epistle it is expressly declared that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. [1 Jn. 1:8.] It has been pointed out, however, that these apparent contradictions can be resolved if due regard is paid to the different tenses used in the original Greek text. In particular, it should be noted that in 1 John 3:4–10 the relevant verbs are in the present or imperfect tense and therefore denote “continuous or habitual action”. Hence on a strict interpretation of the tenses, the author is not affirming that the Christian cannot possibly commit a sin, but he means that it is impossible to conceive of a child of God being habitually sinful, though it remains possible for him to fall [Jn.2:l.] once and again into a single act of sin. [Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, (Moffatt Com.) p. 78ff.] It should also be remembered that Christianity inherited from Judaism a pre-Christian belief that in the Age to Come the people of God would be sinless. [Enoch 5:8ff.; Jubilees 5:12.] Since many of the early Christians believed that “the Age to Come” had been inaugurated by our Lord, it was very natural for them to expect that sinless perfection might now be possible. Furthermore, in 3:9 and 5:8 St. John is speaking ideally, and using the language of anticipation. A central thought with him is that the old world of darkness is passing away; already the light of the New Age is shining, and Christians have been born into the new order. [1 Jn. 2:8.] At the climax of this great regenerating movement inaugurated in Christ, the faithful will share His likeness, [1 Jn. 3:2, 3.] but that time is not yet. It is easily intelligible that, in His enthusiasm over such a prospect, St. John forgot about consistency, and read into the beginning what properly belonged to the final issue of the process. He knew very well that all men are sinners, and plainly said so.
Article XVI: Of Sin After Baptism
[Composed by the English Reformers in 1552 under the title “Of sin against the Holy Ghost”. The present title was substituted in 1563.]
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.
In the previous Article we were considering the declaration that Christ alone is free from sin; “all we the rest ... offend in many things” [Cf. Jas. 3:2.], and therefore the call to repentance is always relevant to our state. “Repentance” is a strong term; it goes much deeper than sorrow for particular sins, and a resolve not to repeat them: it means a change of mind, the acquirement of a viewpoint and attitude which are the reverse of those which led to sinning. When the use of “repentance” and its cognates in the New Testament is studied, it will be found that it seldom occurs with reference to Christians. It appears most frequently in the Gospels and Acts in exhortations to Jews and Gentiles, and is, in fact, an invitation to people to give up their imperfect or idolatrous faiths and embrace the Gospel, “Repent ye, and believe in the Gospel”, that is how Jesus began His preaching [Mk. 1:15.]; and St. Paul’s message consisted of “testifying both to Jews and Greeks repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ”. [Acts 20:21.]
On the other hand, admonition and exhortation in the Epistles are usually intended to remind believers of their high calling in Christ; they are already children of light and ought to be have as such. [Thess. 5:4–8; Ephes. 5:8.] It is not a matter of renouncing what they are, but one of consistency, of living in keeping with their true status. Hence much modern biblical theology has “become what you are” as its theme; Christians must become in terms of practical living what they already are in status.
The key to understanding and harmonizing the various statements on this question in the New Testament is the idea of the Church as a divine society, through which the eternal order has been implanted in the world. Its life is “the Way” [Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:22.], “the way of salvation” [Acts 16:17.], the very life of heaven on earth. On their conversion to Christianity men leave a world of darkness and error, and enter the realm of light and truth, and upon the enjoyment of the blessings of their glorious destiny.
To the Jew also, whose faith was based on the divine revelation in the Law, his religion was his most precious and exclusive possession, [Ps. 1:2; 19:7, 8; 78:5–7.] and Christians inherited from him this religious attitude. From the second century before Christ, when the Jew had to defend his faith against a paganism which sought to destroy and supplant it, the supreme virtue was martyrdom, and the greatest sin conceivable, apostasy; he hated false brethren, traitors to the Law, even more than national enemies; a future of “shame and everlasting contempt” [Dan. 12:2.] was their just desert. Some of the most puzzling sayings in the New Testament on the subject of repentance are found in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has the threat of apostasy for its background; the writer’s aim is to show the ephemeral character of Judaism, with a view to preventing a lapse into Judaism by some Christians.
Although the view of the finality of some sins, notably apostasy, had representatives in every generation in the early Church, beginning with the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it was given special prominence when large numbers of Christians abjured the Faith during the sharp Decian persecution in the third century. In this crisis, Novatian, a Roman presbyter, opposed their restoration to the communion of the Church. But at a Synod held at Carthage (A.D. 251) provision was made for the readmission of all offenders after certain intervals and courses of penance, according to the circumstances of their lapse. This rigorist doctrine of Novatian is yet another example of an old extremist belief that was not admitted to the general teaching of the Church, but reappeared in the religious ferment of the Reformation, and is rejected in our Article.
At the Reformation two erroneous views concerning sins committed after Baptism were current: (a) Novatian had held that apostasy was the unpardonable sin, and certain Anabaptists, following his view, held that every mortal sin committed after Baptism is unpardonable. St. John, following Jewish teaching [Num. 15:27–31, where distinction is made between the soul that sinneth “through ignorance” and the soul that sinneth “presumptuously”: the latter was to be “cut off”, i.e. punished by death. Cf. Num. 18:22.], distinguished between “a sin unto death” (mortal sin) and “a sin not unto death”. But he seems to have been thinking of a kind of habitual sinning [Jn. 5:16ff. Note R.V. “sinning a sin” (present participle), and habitually above.] which merited exclusion from the Christian fellowship. He did not enjoin the Christians to pray for such a sinner, but neither did he forbid prayer for him, or suggest that his sin was utterly unpardonable. On the basis of his words, however, the name “mortal sin” came to be given to any sin deliberately and willfully committed with a full consciousness of guilt, as distinct from sins unwittingly committed. The Article declares that not every mortal sin is unpardonable, and makes no attempt to define the unpardonable “sin against the Holy Ghost”. [Mk. 3:28–30; Mtt. 12:31f.; Lk. 12:10. Reluctance in 1563 to define the unpardonable sin explains the omission of the 1553 Article on “Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”.] The common assumption of the New Testament is that the faithful share in the universal feature of humanity, its sinfulness; they too need to repent and amend their lives. Any claim to sinlessness is denied by the fact; but on the acknowledgement and confession of our sins, they are pardoned [1 Jn. 1:8–10.]; the spiritually strong are to support their brethren when overtaken in a trespass [Gal. 6:1.]; to be inconsiderate towards believers with a tender conscience is to sin against Christ [1 Cor. 8:12.]; “our Lord’s patience with us is our salvation” [2 Pet. 3:15 (N.E.B.).], and it is not His wish that any should perish, “because it is. not His will for any to be lost, but for all to come to repentance”. [2 Pet. 3:9 (N.E.B.).]
(b) The Article also exposes the opposite error, already denied by Article XV, that it is impossible for the regenerate to sin. [The idea probably springs from the A.V. of 1 Jn. 3:9 and 5:18.] “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, ... And therefore they are to be condemned which say, that they can no more sin as long as they live here.”
The Calvinists held that when once a man had received grace, even if he fell away for a time, he must in the end arise again and amend his life. But they failed to get this view incorporated into the Article, which merely says, “by the grace of God we may arise again ...” The opening words “Not every ...” also leave open the possibility that some deadly sins committed after Baptism may be unpardonable. The Article thus rejects also the Calvinist doctrine that a man cannot finally fall away from grace (technically called “indefectible grace”). Both Scripture and experience endorse this repudiation. St. Paul had undoubtedly received the Holy Ghost, [Acts 9:17.] but he was never presumptuously certain of his final salvation. [1 Cor. 9:27 (RV); Phil. 3:12.] Our Lord warned us that even branches of the True Vine may be cut off and perish [Jn. 15:1–6.]; the salt may lose its savour and “be cast out” [Mtt. 5:13.]; the seed may grow for a little but yet die, – “these are they which for a while believe and in time of temptation fall away”. [Lk. 8:3.] The grace of God may be received in vain [2 Cor. 6:1; Gal. 5:4; Heb. 12:15.] and may be resisted. [Acts 7:51; Mtt. 23:37.] After Baptism we may by our conduct grieve the Holy Spirit, [Ephes. 4:30.] insult Him, [Heb. 10:29.] or even quench the Divine fire in our hearts. [1 Thess. 5:19.] After escaping the pollutions of the world it is still possible to be “again entangled therein and overcome”. [2 Pet. 2:20 (cf. Heb. 6:4–6).] Our final salvation depends upon our willing obedience and constant cooperation with the grace of God. Hence the Prayer Book teaches us to pray that we “may ever remain” faithful [Prayer before Baptism.] and “continue in that holy fellowship”. [Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion.] But if it does not encourage presumption, neither does if foster despair, for it declares with the greatest authority it can command that God “pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel”. [Absolution in Morning and Evening Prayer; Jn. 20:23; 1 Jn. 2:1f.] Repentance and faith are the only conditions of forgiveness to those who have been baptized. [It is sometimes thought that Heb. 6:4–6, 10:26–29, and 12:14–17 exclude the possibility of forgiveness in certain cases. But the Greek tenses bring out the true meaning. Heb. 6:4–6 means that so long as men “go on crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting Him to an open shame” nothing can be done to bring them to repentance. Failure to find pardon is due to the sinner’s willful refusal to fulfill the conditions necessary for obtaining it; not to God’s unwillingness to grant it. The Revised Version of these passages should be studied.]
Chapter IV – The Salvation Of Man
Article XI: Of The Justification Of Man
[The first part of this Article is adapted from the Würtembeig Confession; the second part is an amended form of the XIth Article of 1553. The Article received its present form in 1563.]
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 be justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
It was on the subject of this Article that the growing dissatisfaction within the Western Church was at last expressed in the formal protest and challenge of the Reformation.
The question here is whether any merit attaches to our conduct, even if it proceeds from faith, which justifies us before God, or does justification rest entirely on Christ? Sometimes things have been alleged in the heat of controversy against the Roman Church which do not fairly represent her teaching, and are easily rebutted; but she does allow that it is possible to acquire merit by doing more than the commandments of God specifically enjoin. More will be said on this subject under Article XIV Of Works of Supererogation; for the present we need only observe that it was flagrant abuse of the doctrine of Merit which provided the spark that gave flame to the smouldering discontent with the corruptions of Western Christendom.
The cardinal doctrine of the reform movement, Justification by Faith, is firmly declared in our Article: “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”.
When we turn to the Homily on Justification (Salvation) to which the present Article refers for a fuller statement on the subject, it is there maintained that the exclusive ground of our acceptance with God is Christ’s merit. “Justification is the office of God only, and it is not a thing which we render unto Him, but which we receive of Him ... by His free mercy, and by the only merit of His most dearly beloved Son.” Since it is God’s “nature and property ever to have mercy and to forgive”, justification is a divine function, and man can have no part in it; not only are works without merit, but there is none even in the faith by which God’s grace in Christ is received: Christ’s person and work alone have merit.*
*This is made clear in the Homily on Salvation (there is no Homily of justification), thus: “The true understanding of this doctrine, we be justified freely by faith without works, or that we be justified by faith in Christ only, is not, that this our own act to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ, which is within us doth justify us, and deserve our justification unto us (for that were to count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves) but the true understanding and meaning thereof is, although we have faith, hope, charity, and all other virtues and good deeds, which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far too weak and insufficient, and unperfect, to deserve remission of our sins, and our justification; and therefore we must trust only in God’s mercy, and that sacrifice which our High Priest and Saviour Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace and remission, as well of our original sin in Baptism, as of all actual sins committed by us after our Baptism, if we truly repent, and turn unfeignedly to Him again.”
Justification by faith does not dispense with the necessity for Baptism. Hooker condemned those “who fixing their minds wholly on the known necessity of faith imagine that nothing but faith is necessary for the attainment of all grace. Yet it is a branch of belief that sacraments are in their place no less required than belief itself ... If Christ himself which giveth salvation do require Baptism, it is not for us who look for salvation to sound and examine Him, whether unbaptized men may be saved, but seriously to do that which is required.” [Eccles. Polity, V.lx.4.] It has been said that “Justification through faith might with equal accuracy be styled justification through union with Christ... . So it is that St. Paul, after dealing with justification in the first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, passes on to the ‘mystical union’ of the Christian with Christ”. [E. J. Bicknell, The Thirty-nine Articles, p. 204.] Since Baptism is the sacrament by which we are incorporated “into Christ” [Gal.3:27; Rom. 6:3.], it is not surprising to find the Apostle associating justification and Baptism. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? ... And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, [The Greek verb is hagiadzo, which is here used forensically, “to free from guilt”. It is used in the same sense in Ephes. 5:26; Heb. 2:11; 10:10, 14, 29; 13:12. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (1944), p. 5.] but ye were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” [Cor. 6:9, 11.] The three verbs in the same (aorist) tense refer to the same point of time, which is undoubtedly the moment of Baptism.* In Romans 6 the Apostle affirms that being baptized “into Christ Jesus” means that we have died with Christ, been buried with Him, and been raised up with Him. Hence he proceeds to argue that “our old man is crucified with Him” [Cp. Baptismal Office, ‘Grant that the old Adam in this child may be so buried that the new man may be raised up in him’.], and that we should not therefore serve sin, for “he that is dead is justified from sin”. [Rom. 6:7 (Greek text).] We also find justification associated with Baptism in Galatians 3:23–25 and in Titus 3:4–7.
*Commenting on 1 Cor. 6:9, 11, W. F. Flemington says “This passage is important not only because it uses the phrase ‘in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ and speaks of the Spirit of our God (both of which recall similar language used about Baptism in Acts), but also because it links Baptism with the great Pauline conceptions of justification and sanctification,” The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism (1948), p. 56. Dr. G. W. H. Lampe also takes this view and describes Baptism as “pre-eminently the sacrament of Justification,” The Doctrine of Justification by Faith (1954), pp. 53–68.
In the Article, to be justified is the equivalent of being ‘accounted righteous’ (justi reputamur); it does not mean that sin in us is removed, and that we are actually made perfect. [Some modern biblical scholars say “to justify” means “to make righteous,” but hasten to explain that “righteous” does not mean “morally good”; it refers to status rather than character, and means “being in the right” or “having a right relationship to God.”] “Justi’ (righteous) bears the forensic sense that “before God” (coram Deo) and under the destiny-deciding judgement upon us, we are acceptable to Him “for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (propter meritum Domini, ac servatoris nostri Jesu Christi.) The use of the singular “merit” (meritum) may be noted; it reminds us of Hooker’s fine phrase, ‘the infinite worth of the Son of God’. In considering Christ’s merit as the basis or cause (propter meritum) of justification, it must be thought of as belonging to the entire Fact of Him, to the truth about His Person, as well as His life of complete obedience to God’s will and all that it involved. While the best that men can do is impaired by their general sinful state, and could never avail for justification, there is, on the other hand, more in the merit of Christ than moral perfection; it has also to be asked, Who is this in whom the ideal life is realized?
The description of our virtues in the above quotation from the Homily as “far too weak and insufficient, and imperfect” implies metaphysical rather than moral defect; yet even were they morally faultless they would still be inadequate for our justification because they belong to creatures. For the doctrine of Christ’s merit His sinless life has to be seen as the manifested life of the eternal Son of God. The mind and action in which the merit of Christ consists are well expressed in Philippians 2:5–8. Although a divine Being, having the essence of God and with the dignity and honour pertaining thereto, He had regard for man’s need, and willingly came to his aid. This necessitated His entering our situation, and to this end He divested Himself of His heavenly glory and took the role of one whose motive was service. [Lk. 22:27.] Faithfulness to His mission tested His obedience to the uttermost, even to the point of accepting the pain and shame of death on the Cross. In the other passage where St. Paul refers to this self-impoverishment of our Lord, he calls it the “grace” of Christ. [Cor. 8:9.] Our Lord’s life on earth was a mission; He was “sent” by the Father, [Jn. 17:18, 20:21.] and so His whole redemptive action was one of obedience. His choice to become incarnate has in itself the quality of infinite condescension and humble service, and an obedience which accepted the infirmities, sorrow and suffering of our human lot to the point of complete Self-sacrifice is of inestimable moral value. There is in Christ’s saving achievement an inexhaustible source of merit which is the reason of our reconciliation to God, and is available through faith. It is this relationship between our faith and Christ’s merit which explains the two statements in the Article that “we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith”, and “we are justified by faith only”: that is to say, the merit of Christ is the sole basis of our reconciliation to God, and “faith only” the medium of its reception. [That is, “by faith without the deeds of the Law”, Rom. 3:28.] This is further brought out in one of the post-Communion prayers in the Communion Office, where remission of sins is granted “by the merits and death” (propter merita et mortem) of Christ, and “through faith” (per fidem) in His blood.
Among the New Testament writers it is St. Paul who found most difficulty about the belief he inherited from Judaism, that the righteousness which made a man acceptable with God was possible by keeping the commandments of the Law. Yet his faultless observance of them not only failed to bring the soul-peace which satisfies, but a note of pride in personal achievement seems to attach to his claim of blamelessness by the Law’s standard. [Phil. 3:6.] The fact is that where moral behaviour is the result of human endeavour, as it was in Judaism, rather than the fruit of the Spirit of life in Christ, as in Christianity, it is not possible to avoid a feeling of self-congratulation and pride in independent accomplishment. The legal method of righteousness fails on two counts: (i) no code of commandments can cover all circumstances, and (ii) we require an enabling strength to help us to do what is seen to be right, even more than a knowledge of the right, and this an external rule of conduct cannot supply. [Rom. 8:3.] Justification by faith is St. Paul’s interpretation of Christ and His work in view of the failure of righteousness by the Law. After all, the purpose of the Law was that of a ‘servant’ to lead Israel to Christ [Gal. 3:24.] by guarding against idolatry and enjoining moral conduct. It was weak both in content and method, and pointed away from itself to another means of salvation. And so, “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son ... that He might redeem them that were under the Law”. [Gal. 4:4.] The aim of the Law to make us righteous was not to be realized in itself, but in Christ, else He “died for nought”. [Gal. 2:21; cf. Rom. 3:20; 10:4; 9:30–32.] The perfect obedience of Christ avails for our benefit; He is our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. [Cor. 1:30.]
It has often been alleged that the transference to us of Christ’s merit is “a legal fiction”; God regards us as righteous in Him when actually we are not. For St. Paul there are two kinds of righteousness, that which is of the Law, i.e., our present degree of conformity to the commandments of the Law, and the divine righteousness which is “reckoned” to us by faith in Christ [Phil. 3:9; Rom. 9:30; 2 Cor. 5:21.], and by which we are justified. Now the question is: how is God’s righteousness accounted to us in Christ? The key to understanding St. Paul’s thought about this is his great conception of our mystical union with Christ through membership of His Body, the Church. As part of His Body every baptized person is in vital relation with Him and infused with His Spirit [1 Cor. 12:12f.; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:15f.; Col. 2:19.]; he is “in Christ” and Christ is in him. The faithful member of the Body is really a composite personality whom St. Paul could never conceive of out of his relationship to his Saviour. For the Apostle there is no such thing as an isolated Christian, standing alone and by himself; by definition he is one whose life is bound up with Christ’s as a member of His Body, which is the Church. Our normal status of “life in Christ” involves a certain identity with Him; an inter-permeation of personalities takes place, whereby we participate in His total worthiness.
The ritual of Christian Initiation, the cleansing in and rising from the baptismal water, is symbolic of a new religious experience. The crucial events in Christ’s historic achievement of salvation, His Death and Resurrection, have a spiritual counterpart in the meaning of Baptism, according to which the baptizand dies with Christ to his sinful past and sinful self; and rises with Him to a new life. [Rom. 6:3–5; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12.] Progress in sanctification, which is the mark of the new life, consists in an enlarging appropriation of Christ’s atoning merit under the action of His indwelling Spirit.
Union with Christ is of the first importance for any assessment of the Christian’s position in God’s sight; no pronouncement can be made which does not take account of it
Look, Father, look on His anointed face,
And only look on us as found in Him.
In virtue of this oneness with Christ we share in the righteousness of His complete obedience, and the relationship has also in it the pledge and potency of that sanctification whereby our immature, undeveloped righteousness eventually becomes what is actual in Him. Discipleship is growth in ‘putting on’ Christ, and has for its goal the stature of His fullness. [Ephes. 4:13.] Life in Christ here and now, rudimentary though it is, as St. Paul well knew, is nevertheless the hope and guarantee of our final likeness to Him.
St. Paul’s conclusion on the ultimate result of God’s redemptive intervention in Christ is the unqualified victory of His saving love; Christ’s rule must continue to spread until God has brought all things into harmony with His mind and purpose. The Son’s supreme offering to the Father is His perfected work, a ransomed creation. The position of Christians is that they are the beginning of the end of this all-inclusive movement of redemption, and, by anticipation, the blessings of the glorious consummation are already theirs. [Rom. 8:19–23; 1 Cor. 15:23–28.] This is the ground and strength of the Apostle’s claim: “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”. [Rom. 8:1.]
Life in Christ through His indwelling presence, by which we are acceptable to God, comes of faith, which also determines the character of Christian righteousness. But what precisely is the nature of the faith that leads through the initiation of Baptism to union with Christ? There is general agreement that the object of faith is the Gospel, the “good news” of God’s saving action in Christ and of His free offer to men of all the benefits of His achievement. And faith itself is the grateful acceptance and commitment to the truth of that message. Yet a further question requires consideration: Is the Christian message addressed to all, is it open to every person to consider it, and adopt it or reject it? Or, on the other hand, is it meant only for those known to God alone and who by His eternal decree on hearing it would inevitably embrace it? In this connection it is necessary to distinguish between divine foreknowledge and decree. It has been said that God’s knowledge of what men will do is the same as determining that they will do it, and that therefore divine foreknowledge and human freedom are incompatible. But if psychologists from a limited knowledge of a person’s inner make-up and disposition, and without undue influence, can predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy how he will behave in particular circumstances, it is not easy to see why God’s foreknowledge should be inconsistent with human freedom. “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was should betray Him”, but Judas was nonetheless held responsible for his actions and his treachery was condemned. [Jn. 6:64; 19:11.]
The Article, while commending the teaching of the Homily of Justification does not explicitly contain it. It merely excludes “our own works, or deservings” as a reason for being “accounted righteous before God”, whereas the Homily allows no place whatever for personal decision in response to the Gospel. This is against the whole motive behind evangelical preaching. Did any missionary ever think that in proclaiming the Christian message he was in a single instance working against God’s appointment; that there was one soul divinely intended to refuse his appeal?
Our Lord’s frequent demand for faith in His hearers is for something they had a say in and could act upon, and its absence hindered Him. [Mk. 4:40; 11:22f.; Lk. 17:6; Mtt. 9:29; 13:58.] The theologians, trying to accommodate the divine attributes to the ruling ideas of their time, have been largely responsible for the confusion surrounding this question. The problem of grace and freedom cannot be met in this way; it has to be viewed within the general context of God’s character and relation to the world. That “God is love” [1 Jn. 4:8, 16.] must be the primary thought about Him; His other qualities, His wisdom, power and justice are subservient, and operate for realizing His purpose of love. If the reason for our existence and redemption is the love of God, and if what He wants from us is responsive love, certain facts follow. Love by its nature cannot be compelled; it must be freely rendered. While He ever seeks to accomplish His ideal for us, God will never force us to be what we do not desire to be, for then He would be working against His whole purpose in creation, the triumph of love. Should we speak at all of God saving “by love or fear”, it ought to be on the understanding that fear must pass into love before it becomes what He requires, for “there is no fear in love”. [1 Jn. 4:18.] The divine love strives to draw us, to win the concurrence of our wills in pursuance of His beneficent design for us. Herein lies the essence of God’s way with men, and a right view of the relation between grace and personal decision in the act of faith depends upon it. However much is due to the movement of the Spirit of grace within the heart and mind, we are still treated as men, not as morons. It is not for us to trace in detail the divine and human elements in the giving and receiving of salvation; yet we have no deeper conviction than that freedom has its latitude, and we are responsible agents – it is a conviction to be trusted. In God’s dealings with us a point is reached where His will that we should receive His gift of salvation is accepted and made our own, or rejected: “our wills are ours to make them Thine”.
The view taken here of God’s relation to the world, and to humanity in particular, is that it is one which requires cooperation between Him and us. While nothing at all could be done by man in providing the means of salvation, that is God’s exclusive work and He has performed it in Christ; yet there must also be from our side a real act of resolve to receive the redemption He has wrought. This distinction between the divine and the human in justification is observed and allowed in St. Paul’s most direct statement on the subject: “You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His chosen purpose”. [Phil. 2:12 (N.E.B.).]
Article XII: Of Good Works
[This Article was added by Archbishop Parker in 1563, derived partly from the Würtemberg Confession.]
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 Judgement; 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.
The teaching of this Article is aimed against the calumny of the Roman Church on the one hand, that the cardinal reformed doctrine of Justification by Faith left no place for Good Works, [A technical term for Christian activities.] and also at the view of some fanatical sects – a view still current today – that belief in Christ’s atoning achievement is all there is to faith; conduct does not matter. Here the position of our Church is made plain. Nothing that man may do can contribute anything to his reconciliation to God: the ground on which he is pardoned and brought into harmony with Him, and the divine wrath averted, is Christ’s merit. “Good Works ... cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgement.” The merit of Christ is an objective fact and altogether independent of our attitude to it. To believe this is the first step in the exercise of the faith through which the merit of Christ becomes effective unto Justification. The danger here, and it is a very real one, is to think that faith can be identified with bare intellectual assent to the doctrine of Christ’s merit. Almost as soon as it was first preached, justification by faith was misunderstood in this way, and St. James had to write his Epistle to correct such mistaken interpretations. It is easy to say we believe certain facts or statements when we think they are true, especially if they may be neglected as having little interest for us, and with no bearing on our lives. But the merit of Christ is not a fact of this kind; on the contrary, it is of the deepest concern to us, and belief in it must result in a life of responsive devotion and service to Him whose achievement it is. Mere intellectual concurrence, as St. James points out, is a faith that the demons could have; they might acknowledge their Conqueror and tremble before Him, but they remain demons [Jas. 2:19; Mk. 1:24.]; theirs is a “dead” faith. As the Article says, Good Works are the fruits of faith and follow justification, and they “do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith”. According to the standpoint of the New Testament, it would be nonsense to think of having the justifying righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ, apart from possession of the mind or Spirit of Christ that issues in conduct bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit [Rom. 8:9; Gal. 5:22.]; the two are properly inseparable. Christian behaviour is so much the natural outcome of a proper faith that by it “a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.” On this both St. Paul and St. James are in full agreement; a saving faith is one that works through love.
As we have indicated, the Article attempts to strike a mean between extremes. On the one hand, the Roman Church seems to over-estimate the importance of Good Works, as a means of earning justification, increase of grace, eternal life, and even an increase of glory.* Against this view, the Article declares that Good Works which follow after justification cannot earn justification for us.** Note the distinction between “Works” (Article XIII) and “Good Works”. The Article follows Augustine’s dictum: “Good Works go not before in him which shall afterward be justified; but Good Works do follow after when a man is first justified”. [From St. Augustine’s De Fide et Operibus; cited in Homily “Of Fasting”.] Our Lord emphasized that ‘the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, [Jn. 15:4. (R.V.)] and St. Paul was insistent that works cannot merit justification. [Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Ephes. 2:8f.; Tit. 3:5.]
*The Council of Trent affirmed: “Whosoever shall affirm that the good works of a justified man are in such sense the gifts of God, that they are not also his worthy merits, or that he being justified by his good works, which are wrought by him through the grace of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ, of whom he is a lively member, does not really deserve increase of grace, eternal life, the enjoyment of that eternal life if he dies in a state of grace, and even an increase of glory, let him be accursed”, cited in Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, p. 206.
**Cf. Article XIII. The Article is emphasizing the imperfection of our good works. The phrase was taken from the Würtemberg Confession: “For all the good works that we do are imperfect, neither can they bear the severity of the divine judgement.”
At the other extreme, certain Protestants have so underestimated the importance of Good Works as to encourage “solifidianism” [Latin, “sola fide”, “by faith only”.] and “antinomianism” [Greek, “anti-nomos (law)”.]. The former places so much emphasis on salvation “by faith only” as to suggest that Good Works are not only unnecessary but positively evil; the latter encourages lawlessness by saying that because a Christian is “under grace” and not “under Law”, he is therefore under no obligation to observe even the moral law. The Article emphasizes the importance of Good Works as “pleasing and acceptable to God”, [Phil. 4:8; 1 Pet. 2:5.] and the necessary fruits of a true and lively faith. Our Lord held before us the ideal of perfect holiness, [Mtt. 5:48 (RV).] and taught us to regard Good Works as so certainly the product of a living faith, [Mtt. 7:16f.; Lk. 6:43.] that we shall be judged according to our works at the end of life. [Mtt. 16:27.] St. Paul held the same view, declaring, “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” [2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6.] The New Testament writers repeatedly emphasize the importance of a practical holiness of life, which may be seen by our good works. [Rom. 6:22 (RV); Eph. 2:10; Tit. 2:7, 14; Jas. 2:17f., 26; 1 Jn. 2:5 (RV).] The faithfulness and good works of God’s servants forwards His purpose for mankind. [1 Cor. 12:26ff.; Jas. 5:16.] Confession of Christ is meaningless without obedience to His precepts and example [Lk. 6:46; Jn. 13:15.]; and keeping His words, as distinct from hearing them and acknowledging their truth, makes all the difference between building on a rock and building on sand. [Mtt. 7:24–27.]
A “lively” faith, as opposed to the barren “dead” faith which St. James describes, passes inevitably into a process of sanctification through the good life. By their Baptism into Christ believers have died to their sinful past, and have risen with Him to a new life of righteousness. Once they yielded their members “to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity”, but now they are to present them “as servants to righteousness unto sanctification”. [Rom. 6:19.] Christians were formerly darkness, but are become “light in the Lord”, and ought to “walk as children of light”, which has its fruit ‘in all goodness and righteousness and truth”. [Eph. 5:8f.] Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works”. [Tit. 2:14; cf. Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11.]
Good Works are “pleasing and acceptable to God” because of their relation to Christ. They are done by those who are “in Christ” [Jn. 15:4f.], who have His mind and live by His Spirit. [1 Cor. 2:16; Gal. 5:25.] St. Paul prays for the saints in Christ at Philippi that they may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” [Phil. 1:11.]; behaviour becoming to believers is “well-pleasing unto the Lord” [Eph. 5:9.]; to suffer patiently for righteousness’ sake after Christ’s example is “acceptable with God”. [1 Pet. 2:19f.]
Article XIII: Of Works Before Justification
[This Article seems to have been composed by the English Reformers as one of the Forty-two Articles of 1553, for it has no close parallel elsewhere. The title is derived from an early draft in which the first clause ran: “Works that are done 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.
The presupposition of the teaching of this Article is the severe contrast which is drawn in the New Testament and primitive Christianity between the state of the world outside Christ and the order of things under the New Covenant founded by Him. “The whole world lieth in the evil one,” says St. John [1 Jn. 5:19.]; the purpose of redemption is that men might be delivered “out of this present evil world”. [Gal. 1:4.] Until Christ’s coming mankind was in darkness, but now “the darkness is passing away and the true light already shineth”. [1 Jn. 2:8.] By the Incarnation the original act of creation is repeated; God has commanded His light to shine in Christ on the chaotic darkness of the world. [2 Cor. 4:6.]
The question proposed in the Article might be stated thus : Is it possible for the natural man, who is under the domination of “the world-rulers of this darkness” [Eph. 6:12.], to do anything that is pleasing to God or render himself worthy of receiving grace? And the answer given is a clear negative. To be “in Christ” is the pre-requisite of all conduct acceptable to God, so that “works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God”, since they do not spring from faith in Christ, “neither do they make man meet to receive grace, or deserve grace of congruity”. The Article was composed by the English Reformers in 1552 with the object of repudiating the teaching of the Schoolmen [The School-men were the theologians of the Middle Ages who tried to reconcile faith and reason by reducing theology to a philosophical system. St. Anselm (d. 1109) is regarded as the first of the School-men; others well known were Albertus Magnus (d. 1280), St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) and Duns Scotus (d. 1308).] that men may merit God’s favour by actions done in their own strength without prevenient grace. [Cf. Article X.] The Schoolmen distinguished between two forms of merit: (i) Arguing from the case of Cornelius, they said that men may turn towards God of their own unaided strength, and although such actions do not deserve a reward, yet it is fitting that God out of generosity should reward them: they earn merit de congruo (“of fitness”). (ii) But good works done with the help of God’s grace deserve a reward: they earn merit de condigno (“as a matter of debt”). Article XII repudiates the idea of merit de condigno by saying that good works, far from earning merit, deserve “the severity of God’s judgement” because of their imperfections. [Cf. note above, imperfection.] Article XIII condemns the doctrine of merit de congruo. The scholastic theory is semi-Pelagian, for it suggests that we earn God’s grace by “making a good start” on our own. Such an idea is contradicted by the teaching of St. Paul [Rom. 4:1–4; 9:11–13; cf. Tit. 3:5.], and is not supported by the case of Cornelius. [God clearly took the first step in bringing about Cornelius’ conversion; it is an example of prevenient grace (Acts 10:3f.).]
The Article is relevant to the current opinion, so oft repeated, that “it doesn’t matter what a man believes so long as he leads a decent life” – the inference being that actions are more important than beliefs. But Scripture and experience alike teach us that motives are most important of all. [Cf. 1 Sam. 16:7.] Deeds of mercy may be done from selfish motives, pride, self-righteousness, or a desire to win the praise of men. Only good motives can produce good deeds, and only spiritual motives can produce deeds of spiritual force. Though a man may give away all that he has, he may even sacrifice his life, yet unless his action springs from a Christian motive it is worthless [1 Cor. 13:3 (RV), cf. Gal. v.22.]; and a Christian motive cannot exist apart from “the grace of Christ”. [Jn. 15:5 (RV).] Good works, in the full Christian meaning, can only be done by those who are in Christ and share His mind; all other actions are defective in motive and fall short of this, and hence “have the nature of sin”. [A technical phrase based on Article IX (cf. Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6). The Article does not go as far as the Calvinists who regarded such works as wholly sinful.]
Now if the moral value of our actions depends on their motive, on the reason why we do them, then it may be confidently contended that Christian belief provides the highest conceivable motive, and conduct inspired by it is most pleasing to God.
But were there no lives, in Israel or in heathendom, before Christ came, that presented features approved by God? There is evidence in the New Testament for the view that there were. Enoch was assured that “he had been well-pleasing unto God” [Heb. 11:5.]; the Old Testament prophets were inspired by the Spirit of Christ, [1 Pet. 1:11.] and our Lord found more commendable faith among pagans and converts to Judaism, than among His Jewish contemporaries. [Mk. 7:29; Mtt. 8:10.] The commandments of the Law are “holy, and righteous, and good”, wrote St. Paul, [Rom. 7:12.] and in Romans ii he argues that by following their moral sense Gentiles kept the Law, and became a law unto themselves. In spite of the depths of depravity to which paganism had descended, the indications are that an earnest seeking after God was by no means wanting, [Acts 17:28.] and that it did not go unsatisfied. The case of Cornelius (Acts 10) is an example of this tendency. Although of Gentile origin, a knowledge of the true God and a desire for the good life were his principal concern, and for the time being he found the answer in the religion of the Jewish synagogue, in which he worshipped and lived acceptably to God. [Acts 10:4.] But his adopted Judaism was only a stage on his way to Christianity. It was, in fact, among people who had made the same spiritual pilgrimage as Cornelius, from paganism to Judaism, i.e. proselytes, that the Gospel first secured a firm footing in the world. Later some important Church writers pointed out that Greek moralists and philosophers did for paganism what the Law did for the Jew; it served as a “tutor (paidagogos) unto Christ”. [Gal. 3:24.] It is difficult not to believe that in this great trend of preparation for the Gospel, in Jewish Law and Prophets and Greek philosophy alike, there were many worthy souls whose work and influence were pleasing to God.
If, however, we are thinking of moral virtue not in a relative, preliminary way, but in its highest form, then the central doctrine of the Article is sound: only works which express the mind of Christ and are inspired by His Spirit can have the motive which renders them acceptable to God in the fullest sense; for He is the Beloved in whom the Father is well-pleased, and in Whom also the divine grace is bestowed upon us. [Eph. 1:6.] Christian morality consists in the imitation of Christ, and the love which it manifests is not comparable with the instinctive parental affection and care so important in biological evolution, or with the outward regard for the rights of others that communal life demands. In the New Testament it is not even because they are made in the Divine image that we are to love our fellowmen. There the ultimate fact in the evaluation of the individual is that he is a “brother for whose sake Christ died”. [1 Cor. 8:11.] Christian love, Agape, to use the New Testament term, is no humanist esteem for persons as such; it is attitude and action towards the objects of God’s reconciling work in Christ. The motive of the Christian way of life is to return the divine love in meeting our deepest need, redemption; and we do this by treating others as God hath dealt with us and them: “we love (both God and man), because He first loved us”. [1 Jn. 4:19.] Christian behaviour is not even formal conformity to our Lord’s sayings and example; it is the expression of His mind, which the believer has through union with Him by the indwelling of His Spirit. [1 Cor. 2:16; Gal. 4:6.]
This basis of Christian living is unique both in content and method; there is nothing like it elsewhere in the history of religions. It lies in a spiritual experience which is only possible in virtue of the new relation of God to man in Christ. Thus our Article is strictly correct in stating that works done outside this relation “are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not out of faith in Jesus Christ.” And this is the viewpoint of the New Testament. It is from the heart that evil thoughts and actions proceed, [Mk. 7:21–23.] and similarly the opposite qualities. The important thing is that the tree should be good, for then good fruit is the inevitable product. [Mtt. 7:17–20.] The order here is the point to be noted: the good fruit is the evidence of the tree’s condition, not its cause; the tree is not made good by bearing good fruit, rather the fruit is good because it comes from a good tree.
Article XIV: Of Works Of Supererogation
[This is another of the Forty-two Articles of 1553, and an original composition of the English Reformers, the only subsequent change being the substitution of “impiety” for “iniquity”.]
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 bound 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 you, say, We be unprofitable servants.
A work of supererogation is, literally, some act which is over and above what is required by the explicit commandments of God. To avoid coveting, theft, murder, and lying, to honour one’s parents, is obedience to definite demands; but there are other worthy decisions and deeds which are not enjoined, like renunciation of the world, and the embracing of poverty or celibacy, as well as innumerable pious practices and exercises of self-denial, and it is alleged that in this way there can be a surplus of merit.
The Church of Rome distinguishes between “precepts” (commandments binding upon everyone), and “counsels” (recommendations which are desirable, but not binding upon everyone). In 1 Corinthians 7, St. Paul, discussing the relative merits of marriage and celibacy, says, “Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment (praeceptum, “precept”) of the Lord, but I give my judgement (consilium, “counsel”).” On the basis of such passages it is argued that those who observe the “counsels” by taking vows of poverty, chastity, and the monastic life, perform thereby works of supererogation. [The Latin rogare meant “to propose a law” or “bring in a Bill” as we would say; erogare meant to propose a law dealing with money matters; and supererogare meant to “pay out more than was necessary”. Thence supererogatio in ecclesiastical usage meant doing more than God required.] The excess of merit earned by such works is alleged to belong to the whole Church, so that a sort of “Treasury of Merit” is supposed to exist, from which the Church can draw to help sinners, not only in this life, but also hereafter. [Hence the practice of selling Indulgences to help souls in purgatory.]
But the whole doctrine of merit is as irrational as it is unscriptural. “For our whole life, for every power that we possess as well as for every opportunity of exercising it, we are utterly dependent upon God. He has an absolute claim upon all our life. Nothing we can do can give us a claim against Him. Hence, not only is the ‘reward’ that we receive from Him non-transferable, but from the nature of the case even the holiest saint can never possess any ‘merit’ that belongs to him, as it were, in his own right and can be transferred to another’s account. Our personal relationship to our Heavenly Father cannot be expressed in terms of arithmetic.” [Bicknell, Op. cit. p. 218f.] The Article, in effect, says that no man can do more than his duty. Since nothing less than perfection is required of us, [Matt. 5:27; Luke 10:27.] and all our works, as we saw, [Article XII, note, imperfection.] are imperfect, it is impossible for any man to attain to God’s standard, much less to exceed it. There can be no exception to our Lord’s verdict: “When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We be unprofitable servants.” [Luke 17:10.] If the best of service is “unprofitable,” there can be no excess of merit.
The distinction between “precepts” and “counsels” is not absolute. For instance, if God calls a man to the Ministry, he does not earn extra merit by obeying; but he would be committing a sin if he disobeyed; the “counsel” has become for him a “precept”. The same applies to those who are called to a life of poverty or chastity. The Rich Young Ruler was asked to become poor as a condition of discipleship, not as a work of supererogation. By refusing, he did not simply fail to earn merit; he endangered his entrance into the Kingdom of God. [Mark 10:23.] God does not, however, call all men to make the same sacrifices, or to serve Him in the same way. [Cf. Article XXXVIII.]
As Christians we hold that God is the source of all good, and that His commandments are good because He is good. We confidently ask with Abraham: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right”? [Gen. 18:25.] This is a religious conviction, and the moral sense obliges us to be loyal to it. It also means that the moral judgement itself may not always contain the reason for accepting the commandment, although generally the commandments make a moral appeal and evoke a similar response: “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and righteous, and good”. [Rom. 7:12.] The important thing is to see that the commandments are received and acted upon because we believe, either on religious authority, or moral sanction, that they are right. And it is not different with regard to conduct which is not formally enjoined. Everyone would not agree that for progress in the spiritual life celibacy is superior to the married state; but whoever thinks it is, is morally bound to adopt it. Conscience commits us to honour the best we know; it is our duty, something we owe to ourselves as well as to God. On whatever ground a course of action is decided to be right, there is no escape from moral obligation to pursue it. It matters not at all whether it is prescribed by a code or chosen freely; its moral worth is the same. Since this is so, special merit can never attach to “voluntary works”; there is strictly no such thing as a work of supererogation. As moral agents we stand under an uncompromising obligation to follow the best we know. This moral sense, with its supreme claim upon us, is the law of our being; to obey its direction is the way to the full free life; to violate it leads to decline and death. To think of merit and reward for observing the law of our being is out of place; it is our primary duty to do so. Even when the moral requirement takes the form of a religious commandment, conformity does not earn merit: “When ye have done all ... say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do” [Lk. 17:10.] Throughout Scripture all men are regarded as sinners; there is no overplus of merit. Before God “shall no man living be justified” [Ps. 143:2.]; “there is none that doeth good” [Ps. 14:3.]; “in many things we all stumble” [Jas. 3:2.]; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” [1 Jn. 1:8.].
Article XVII: Of Predestination And Election
[One of the Forty-two Articles of 1553, which suffered only slight verbal changes in 1563 and 1571.]
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 themelves 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.
A study of Scripture and experience of life present us with certain facts – the existence of evil; the salvation of some people, and the condemnation of others; the circumstances which often seem to place one person on the road to salvation, and another on the road to condemnation. These facts have led most theologians to believe in an “election” of “grace” based on certain statements in Scripture; but the majority of them do not suggest that this election of grace, the free and special manifestation of God’s goodness, implies election to death of all who are not elected to life. The problem was much debated at the Reformation. John Calvin declared “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which He determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” [Institutes, Book III, chap. xxi, sect. 5.] It will be noted that the Article does not follow Calvin to such an extreme conclusion. He clearly taught that God, in the fullness of His sovereignty by “His eternal and immutable counsel,” has decreed some to salvation, others to damnation, and as He owes nothing to either, the elect have to bless Him everlastingly, and the reprobate have no right to complain. Such a harsh conclusion may be the logical one. But Calvin forgot that God is love, not pure logic. He forgot, too, that even logic is human. Logic is reason arrogating to itself the right of judging alone, supremely, and without appeal. But we should not presume to impose upon God our conclusions, however unanswerable, however clear they may seem to our intellect.
This whole subject of Predestination must be viewed in the light of one of the basic principles clearly enunciated in Scripture.
God loves all mankind, and His eternal purpose for men is good. He “desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live.” [Absolution in Morning and Evening Prayer, cf. Ezek. 33:11; 2 Pet. 3:9.] It is significant that in His teaching about the Final Judgement, our Lord made important distinctions between the sentences passed:
To those on the left hand:
“Depart from Me, ye cursed, unto everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
To those on the right hand:
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Thus, some are blessed by God, but the others are not cursed by Him, – the curse seems to be of themselves. The kingdom is prepared “for you”; but the “everlasting fire” is “for the devil and his angels.” The Article follows this principle in affirming that Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, [It is God’s “good pleasure,” Ephes. 1:5, 9; Phil. 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:11.] and declares that it is the Devil who thrusts “curious and carnal persons” into desperation or “wretchlessness” (i.e. recklessness [Latin, securitatem.]).
The love of God has two aspects, creative and saving. It is in the creative side that the divine love appears in the original, absolute and uncovenanted form. The only reason for the world’s existence at all is that the Creator desired to make something as like Himself as possible. So man was made in God’s image, that is, with a capacity for enjoying the blessedness of a life in communion with Him; such is the divine intention for every soul without exception. In this action of pure creative love man has no part; his being, its nature and meaning, are determined by the will of God. It also belongs to the divine purpose for man that he can accept or refuse his role in its realization. And in fact he has refused on the largest scale; mankind is in a fallen state and requires redemption. It is in the application of the same divine love in which it was created to a world which needs saving, that particular arbitrary choices are seen.
Israel is selected from among the nations of the earth [Amos 3:2.] to be God’s peculiar people, [Deut. 4:2.] and the instrument of His redeeming action, [Isa. 49:6.] and within Israel He raises up Moses and calls the prophets: the whole history of salvation is one of special choices and appointments. There is no difficulty about such a process of election, provided it is understood not to be an end in itself, but the means of universal salvation. The greatest tragedy that ever befell a nation was Israel’s failure to appreciate this. The aim of God’s redemptive action in history is to accomplish the purpose of His love in creation, to bring all men to the blessed life of fellowship with Himself.
The doctrine of predestination has two roots: one is ideal, the conception of the majesty and omnipotence of God, and the other is empirical, derived from experience and history. Against the sovereign power with which God pursues His purpose, the lives of individuals and the fortunes of the nations are reduced to insignificance [Isa. 40:12–17; Ps. 144:3, 4.]; they have no independent meaning, but are part of a predetermined plan; history is an exhibition of puppetry, and the feeling of freedom and responsibility is an illusion.
A less rigid view of predestination is connected with the sense of vocation or mission which some of the great makers of history have had, of whom our Lord and St. Paul are conspicuous examples. [Jn. 12:27; 18:37; Gal. 1:15f.]
History is not the mechanical unfolding of the divine counsel; within the framework of God’s purpose much happens which need not or should not have happened, and His ultimate control of events is seen in how evil is made to contribute to the good. Were Israel’s disobedience and rejection of Jesus an integral part of God’s plan for His ancient people? The prophets and St. Paul answer, No; yet for the Apostle the latter event leads directly to the preaching to the Gentiles, and indirectly to Israel’s conversion. His reflections on God’s ways with His People created in St. Paul’s mind overwhelming conviction concerning His Wisdom and power in the overruling of history, and it is this idea of complete divine supremacy that lies behind his reference to vessels of honour and dishonour in Romans 9:21. But he says much besides which it is quite impossible to reconcile with potter-and-clay predestinarianism.
As the clauses immediately following it show, the opening sentence of the Article: “Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God”, refers to the scheme of salvation. It is rather remarkable that no motive for creation is mentioned in Scripture; the world is never traced to the love of God. The divine love is always thought of in biblical theology from the standpoint of redemption; God is pre-eminently the God of saving love. The plan of salvation was conceived in the divine council before creation, and believers are chosen in Christ from all eternity. [Rom. 8:30; Eph. 4:4–6; 1 Pet. 1:1f.]
After this general statement of the purpose of predestination the Article mentions the several steps in the implementing of it under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Those “endued with so excellent a benefit” as election respond to the Gospel [Jn. 6:37; 10:27; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29f.; 10:17; 1 Thess. 2:12.]; they are freely justified [Rom. 3:24; 5:1, 9; 8:30; 1 Cor. 6:11.]; and in virtue of the New Covenant in Christ they become sons of God by adoption. [Rom. 8:15f; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5.] By the process of sanctification believers are transformed into Christ’s likeness; following their high calling they bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and by grace continuing in the same they at last receive their heavenly inheritance. [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Jn. 3:2; Eph. 1:9–11; 1 Pet. 1:4, 5.]
If those who answer the call of the Gospel are like “vessels made to honour”, what is the position of those who refuse? Was their rejection of it predetermined because it was not meant for them? Were they by arbitrary divine decree outside the scope of salvation? These questions were vigorously debated, especially among Protestants, in the controversies of the Reformation, and we must be grateful for the moderation of our Article. As we have seen, Calvin’s doctrine of predestination included election to eternal life, and reprobation, or election to perdition. Christ died for the chosen few only; the vast majority of the race were foreordained to everlasting punishment. Romans 9:14–24 was chiefly appealed to in support of this “terrible truth”, as Calvin himself called it. What appeared to him the incredible spiritual blindness and obduracy of his own people, the Jews, was a distressing problem to St. Paul. As in Pharaoh’s case, he thought it must be owing to God’s hardening of their hearts, so he concluded: “He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth”. [Rom. 9:18.]
But in neither case is the enforced disobedience God’s real purpose; on the contrary, in both it is the prelude to a typical mighty act for His people’s salvation. Israel’s rejection of the Apostle’s message opened the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles, [Acts 14:27; 13:46.] and the success of his Gentile mission would at last move the Jews to join them, [Rom. 11:14f.] that they might receive their inheritance of the promises in the New Israel, “and so all Israel shall be saved”. [Rom. 11:26.] Gentile disobedience in the past, and Israel’s disobedience in the present, find their meaning in the divine purpose of universal mercy: “For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all”. [Rom. 11:32 (R.V.)]
The real view of St. Paul is that God’s purpose of salvation, which includes the entire creation, [Rom. 8:20f.] is assured of achievement; Christ must reign till God has brought all things into subjection to Him. [1 Cor. 15:25–28; Eph. 1:22.] In another important passage, 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, the Apostle accounts for the spiritual apathy and opposition he has encountered as due, not to human perversion, and still less to the divine counsel, but to the action of “the god of this world” in blinding the eyes of the unbelieving. The conception of the divine purpose in the New Testament is determined by the doctrine, that God is love, and hence is that of predestination to life in the widest sense. [Jn. 3:17f.; Eph. 1:10f.; 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11.]
Much anxiety has been caused by the question of assurance of election. The position taken in our Article is that those chosen out of the world for salvation are known to God alone. It is to be noted that nothing is said about the election of the lost. There is only personal conviction to go on here, and it is necessary to guard against identifying such inner feeling with divine decree. The knowledge that we “daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of (Christ’s) most holy life’ by walking in the Spirit, thus “mortifying the works of the flesh” and bringing forth the fruits of the same Spirit [Rom. 8:13f.; Gal. 5:16, 22–24.], – this is the only guarantee of our calling in Christ that we can have or need. Belief in one’s election on these grounds is of immense psychological value; predestination then is indeed “full of most pleasant, and unspeakable comfort”. [Rom. 8:33, 38f.] And just as the doctrine of election is for the earnest believer a source of encouragement and inspiration to increasing effort in the Christian life, so where there is morbid obsession with our sinfulness it may induce belief in reprobation, and lead to abandonment to wickedness. [Cf. 2 Tim. 2:24–26.]
As we saw when considering Article XVI, our final salvation depends on our willing obedience and constant cooperation with the grace of God. This Article also emphasizes both aspects, the Divine and the human in salvation. On God’s part, there is the calling, the working of the Spirit, the free justification, the adoption as sons, and the attainment of everlasting felicity. On man’s part, the obedience to the calling, conformity to the image of Christ, and religious walking in good works.
God achieves His purpose for mankind through human instruments. He chose Abraham that through him “all the families of the earth might be blessed”. [Gen. 12:3.] The nation of Israel was chosen as God’s People so that they might work for the salvation of all mankind. [Isa. 49:6; 60.] Our Lord sanctified Himself for the sake of others, [Jn. 17:19.] and the Church as the Body of, Christ is God’s instrument for the redemption of the world, [Eph. 3:8, 11; cf. Gal. 1:15f.] its members being “the elect”. [1 Pet. 1:2.]
Thus we see that God elects, or selects, some men through whom His purposes are worked out for the benefit of mankind, and voluntary cooperation is required on the part of those elected. But the election of some does not imply the rejection of all others, as Calvin erroneously supposed. Whatever opinions may be held on this high theme, we are reminded in the concluding paragraph of the Article that the important thing for us is to receive the general teaching of Scripture on God’s will that all men should be saved, that His reconciling work in Christ has all creation for its object [Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:10f.] and also in our conduct to observe that same will by obedience to His clearly declared commandments. [Lk. 10:25–28; Mtt. 7:21, 24f.]
Article XVIII: Of Obtaining Eternal Salvation Only By The Name Of Christ
[Composed for the Forty-two Articles. The original Article had “They also are to be had accursed and abhorred”, but the latter expression was dropped in 1571.]
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, whereby men must be saved.
The error denounced in this Article is one which Newman regarded as especially insidious and dangerous, because it was fostered by the modern spirit of toleration and laisser-faire, and he devoted his life to combating it. He named it “liberalism” in religion, and defined it as the view that one faith, or any form of the same faith, was as good as another. Such a view is widespread today and leads to the conclusion that religious beliefs must be indifferent, for they have no finality; that they are all relative to the culture in which they obtain, and vary from age to age and from place to place. The important thing, it is suggested, is that a man should be consistent, and behave according to his creed; that is the most that should be expected of him, and would meet God’s demands.
It will be agreed that God’s justice will never ask of anyone a better life than his circumstances permit; but that is not to say that the best under any conditions is the divine ideal for him. For Christianity too, consistency is a primary virtue. But only consistency at the highest level results in character and conduct which correspond to the divine standard for humanity. A good Christian is a better type than a good Jew or Stoic, because his conception of God and reality is truer. In other words, consistency in itself is not sufficient; it must be a consistency in which expression is given to true thinking. This is the point in our Lord’s saying in St. John 3:23, 24, about worshipping God “in spirit and in truth”. Sincerity (“in spirit”) in our approach to God must be accompanied by right ideas on His nature and character (“in truth”) for the kind of worship He desires, and the guide here is the mind of Christ. [Cf. 1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5.]
Jesus claimed an exclusive role in the establishing of right relations between God and man: He is the way of access to Him, the teacher of divine truth, and the great Exemplar. [Jn. 14:6; Rom. 5:2; Heb. 10:20.] Leadership of mankind is His prerogative; He comes among men as the rightful Shepherd to His flock, and all that preceded Him are “thieves and robbers”. [Jn. 10:1–15.] He is the Light of the world, and men pass judgement on themselves by their reaction to His message. [Jn. 1:4–9; 3:19; 8:12.] This unique place of Jesus in the scheme of redemption is endorsed in the apostolic preaching: “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven that is given among men, wherein we must be saved”. [Acts 4:12.] He is the sole Mediator between God and men. [1 Tim. 2:5.]
If God has revealed one particular way of salvation, we neglect or ignore that way at our peril, and we are in duty bound to proclaim that Way to all mankind. We cannot leave men utterly dependent upon “the light of Nature”. At best, “the knowledge of God to be gained from Nature is only partial. To put it metaphorically: from Nature we know the hands and feet but not the heart of God. We can know His wisdom and omnipotence, also His justice and even His goodness, but not His forgiving mercy, His absolute will to bring about a communion between man and Himself. [Emil Brunner, in Natural Theology (1946), p. 38. Cp. Robert Boyle (1627–1691): “those attributes of God ... visibily displayed in the fabric of the world ... are His power, His wisdom, and His goodness”, cited in Anglicanism, More and Cross, p. 203.] The Church has been “sent” by God to be His instrument in bringing men into communion with Him. [Hence the Church is described as “Apostolic” (Gk. apostellein, to send, cf. Jn. 20:21).] It is her duty “so to present Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church”. [Towards the Conversion of England, p. 00 (sic).]
The Article does not justify any presentation of the Gospel that has the effect of persuading men to renounce their allegiance to the Church in order to join some novel sect. Nor does it repudiate the principle “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (Outside the Church there is no salvation). The Archbishops’ Commission on Evangelism emphasizes “When the Gospel was first proclaimed, the fellowship of the Church was also proclaimed as an essential element of God’s Good News: ‘They then that received His word were baptized ... And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.’ [Acts 2:41f. (RV).] To have claimed to be able to live the Christian life apart from the Christian community would have passed the comprehension of the New Testament.” [Op. cit. p. 92; cf. Acts 2:47.]
A representative group of Protestant theologians recently described the individualistic view of salvation (characteristic of some of the sects) which ignores the doctrine of the Church as “a lapse from the Gospel, from which we have largely recovered, and we assert today the faith of the Reformers that outside the Church there is no salvation.” [The Catholicity of Protestantism, A Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury by a group of Free Churchmen (1950), p. 91f.] In support of their assertion they quote Luther’s words: “I believe that no one can be saved who is not found in this congregation (that is, the congregation of the saints, or the Church) holding with it to one faith, word, sacraments, hope and love;” “I believe that in this congregation and nowhere else, there is forgiveness of sins.” They also quote Calvin, speaking of the visible Church: “Outside her bosom no forgiveness of sins, no salvation can be hoped for.” [Op. cit. p. 92.]
Pagan history is called in the New Testament “the times of ignorance”. [Acts 17:30; cf. 17:23; Eph. 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:14.] Reason and conscience were inadequate means to a knowledge of God; philosophy led to delusion, and conscience became insensitive in the unequal moral struggle. [Rom. 1:20–25, 32.] Paganism appears in the most favourable light in the New Testament references to proselytes, i.e., converts from heathenism to Judaism. St. Paul paints a frightful picture of the pagan world [Rom. 1:24–32; Col. 3:5–7; 1 Thess. 4:5.]; but we know that even in this welter of wickedness there were noble souls that longed after higher things, and minds devoted to the search for spiritual truth. And many of them found them, at any rate for the time being, in the religion of the synagogue. Among such was Cornelius [Acts 10:1 k (sic) 7:2–10.] “a devout man, and one that, feared God with all his house”, whose account of his vision drew from St. Peter the comment: “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he, that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him”. The Apostle’s experience convinced him that Gentiles, even a Roman soldier, should be accepted in the Christian fellowship, Cornelius had done all he could; he had sought and embraced the best that was open to him, and met with divine approval. But his spiritual quest did not end in Judaism; the faith of the synagogue was for him, and for many like him, a stage on the way to Christ. Proselytism [Proselytism is here used as a general term to indicate attachment to Judaism, of which there were various degrees. Cf. The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. V. Additional Note VIII, p. 74ff.], in fact, was to prove the very seedplot for the Gospel. Judaism was an imperfect religion; it needed fulfillment, and our Lord saw in His own revelation the accomplishment of this. [Mtt. 5:17.] The fulfillment, however, took a form which no Jew could recognize and remain loyal to his ancestral faith. Jesus brought together in His own Person great figures, institutions and prophecies of the Old Testament, which were quite distinct and independent in the Jewish religion, and from their union in Him there emerged an original and unpredictable religious conception. Even in relation to its parent Judaism, Christianity is something new.
According to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Judaism stands to Christianity as the shadow to the substance; to say that they are equally true would be to admit no difference between a reflection and the thing which casts it.
The Church has always strenuously maintained that she is the custodian of an unique knowledge of God. Indeed, in early times, points of resemblance between its system and pagan cults were explained as due to the deceitful imitation of demons. The only other special revelation, that to Israel, was incomplete; the final word of God to man was spoken in His Son. [Heb. 1:2.] The exercise of reason and moral earnestness was a tendency towards the truth they could never reach unaided in this paradoxical world. Ultimate religious truth is for us revealed truth, “even as it is in Jesus”. [Eph. 4:21.]
It will be observed that the Article, while affirming that Christ is the only Saviour, says nothing of those heathen who have had no opportunity of hearing the Gospel. Doubtless they will be judged according to the light they have had and the use they have made of it. [Jn. 1:9; Lk. 12:48; Acts 10:34f.; Rom. 2:12–16; 1 Tim. 4:10.] But missionary work does not therefore become unnecessary; evangelism at home and abroad is a “must” for the Church and all her members. [Mtt. 28:19f.; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:47; Jn. 15:16.]
Chapter V – The Church
Article XIX: Of The Church
[Another of the Articles of 1553. It closely resembles the definition of the Church given in the Seventh Article of the Augsburg Confession, viz.: “The Church is a congregation of the saints, in which the Gospel is rightly (recte) taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”]
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.
In the New Testament, the Church is conceived of as a building in course of erection, [Ephes. 2:19–22.] or, more frequently, as a body, a living growing organic unity of members, a Body of which Christ is the Head. [Ephes. 4:15f.; Col. 2:19; 1 Cor. 12:27.] Theologians differ as to the precise relationship between the Christian Church and Israel. Some consider it is essential “to emphasize the freshness of the new start through the new covenant, without denying the continuity of the Christian Church with Israel; to others it has seemed more important to emphasize the continuity with Israel without denying the freshness of the start. The truth appears to be that both are of vital importance, and there should be no question of sacrificing the one to the other: the need is to relate them rightly.” [Archbishops’ Commission on Doctrine in the Church of England (1938) p. 100.] On the one hand,. our Lord regarded Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as members of the Kingdom, [Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29.] and many of the terms used to describe the old Israel are in the New Testament applied to the Church.* On the other hand, it is argued that “the moment we allow the doctrine, mystical though it may be, that ‘the Church is His Body,’ we are committed to the truth that the Church, in both its metaphysical sense and its historical sense came into being with the Resurrection.” [The Ministry and the Sacraments, Faith and Order Theological Commission Report, (1937), p. 478f.]
*E.g., The Church is called “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16); an “elect race” (1 Pet. 2:9f; Deut. 10:15; Isa. 43:20); a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9; Exod. 19:6); “an holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9; Deut. 7:6); a “people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9 R.V.) Exod. 19:5; Isa. 43:21; Mal. 3:17). It will be observed, however, that the identity is not complete – the Church, like Israel, is “an holy nation” not “the holy nation,” etc. The absence of the definite article may be significant.
Without entering into the controversy, it may be agreed that our Lord was a member of the nation of Israel, and as such would be conversant with the prophetic doctrine that God’s purpose would be fulfilled through a faithful remnant. [Amos 9:8.] When, in the Garden of Gethsemane, all the disciples “forsook Him and fled,” [Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50.] the faithful Remnant was narrowed down to one person, Himself. He is the link between the Old Israel and the New, the Christian Church.
By His Resurrection He revitalized the faith and transformed the lives of His disciples, [cf. Article IV, 1, (c) above.] and restored them to union and fellowship with Himself. The Church is a Divine Society, the “new creation” of God in Christ. Having commissioned the Apostles, [John. 20:21.] our Lord gave the Spirit to the Church at Pentecost. The “cloven tongues like as of fire sat upon each” [Acts 2:3.] but if each was separately visited, the outpouring was simultaneous and collective; the Spirit was given to the Church as a whole. Thenceforth. “The Spirit was the corporate possession of the Body of Christ, and it became the property of the individual convert when he became a member of the Church. No man could be Christ’s who had not Christ’s Spirit, and ordinarily no man could have Christ’s Spirit but by being ‘added’ to the Church in Baptism.” [H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, p. 307. cf. Acts 2:47.]
Christ – the Church – faithful individuals, is the right order of thinking. “Men speak as if Christians came first and the Church after: as if the origin of the Church was in the wills of the individuals who composed it. But, on the contrary, throughout the teaching of the Apostles, we see it is the Church that comes first, and the members of it afterwards. ... In the New Testament ... The Kingdom of Heaven is already in existence, and men are invited into it. The Church takes its origin, not in the will of man, but in the will of the Lord Jesus Christ ... . Everywhere men are called in: they do not come in and make the Church by coming. They are called into that which already exists: they are recognized as members when they are within; but their membership depends on their admission, and not upon their constituting themselves into a body in the sight of the Lord.” [Archbishop F. Temple in his sermon Catholicity and Individualism.] “Being the Body of Christ, it is no self-constituted Society of like-minded seekers after ideal truth or admirers of the prophet Jesus: it is a Society founded and constituted by a now Invisible Head, in whom resides all its vitality, and apart from whom it can do nothing. The distinguishing and confessed characteristic of its being lies in given-ness. ‘When He ascended up on high He gave gifts unto men.’” [Archbishop J. A. F. Gregg, Reunion, p. 3.]
The Article, like the Bible, speaks only of “the visible Church of Christ.” The title, “the Body of Christ,” is used in the New Testament of the union of all the local churches. But each of those local Christian communities was a visible group of people, with a visible service of admission (Holy Baptism), a regularly appointed ministry, a definite standard of belief, and a visible sacrament of Holy Communion. “They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, and in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.” [Acts 2:42 (translated literally).] Such characteristics are marks of a visible society. If the local parts of the Church are visible, the union of those parts must also be something visible. The rules for the exercise of Church discipline, as expounded below, [Article XXXIII.] also presuppose a visible Church. Nevertheless, the evidence of sin in the Church and its members has led some men to believe that the Body of Christ is invisible. But the apostolic writers cling to the paradox that the Church both is the Body of Christ and also consists of sinful and fallible members. However corrupt the Christians may be, St. Paul does not suggest that they do not belong to the “true” or “real” Church. For instance, there was much sin amongst the members of the Corinthian Church, [1 Cor. 3:3; 5:1f.; 6:6f.] yet he regards them as being “in Christ.” [1 Cor. 1:30.] and addresses them as “the church of God which is at Corinth.” He did not suggest for one moment that the less worthy members of the Corinthian Church were not members of the Body of Christ. In the New Testament there is a looking forward to the glorious Church of the future, but it and the imperfect Church of the present are one Church. The Body of Christ is one across the centuries and across the world, for St. Paul regarded schism as “in the Body” [1 Cor. 12:25.], rather than “from the Body”.
The “faithful men” who comprise the Church are those who have been admitted to membership by Baptism. They are commonly called “saints” * in the New Testament, but this has nothing to do with moral or spiritual excellence; it denotes sainthood rather than saintliness, and refers to their new calling in Christ. There are, of course, exemplary and imperfect saints, but both classes are still saints.
*“All who have entered into the Christian covenant by baptism are ‘saints’ in the language of the Apostles. Even the irregularities and profligacies of the Corinthian Church do not forfeit it this title. Thus the main idea of the term is consecration. But, though it does not assert moral qualifications as a fact in the persons so designated, it implies them as a duty.” J. B. Lightfoot, Commentary on Philippians 1:1.
Other marks of the visible Church are that in it “the pure Word of God is preached”, and the Sacraments are “duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance”. The two things most feared and abhorred in the early Church were apostasy and heresy, and the “pure word” here probably means “sound doctrine” [Cf. 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9.], the Apostolic teaching [Acts 2:42.] preserved in the New Testament, Creeds, and historic traditions of the Church. Christ’s authority can be claimed for the two Sacraments of the Gospel, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. [Cf. Mtt. 28:19; Jn. 3:5; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Chap. IX below.] Holy Baptism is the indispensable form of initiation into the new status and life of the Church, and the Holy Communion, or Lord’s Supper, is the means whereby sustenance for the new life is drawn from its Source. [Jn. 6:51–58.]
Both the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments imply an ordered Ministry. Our Lord calls and commissions the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel, [Mtt. 10:5–7; Jn. 20:21.] and an authorized Ministry has a necessary place in later evangelism by the Church: “How shall they preach, except they be sent”. [Rom. 10:15.] The evidence of early Church history is that administration of the Holy Communion was confined to the higher orders of the Ministry, Bishops and Priests. It is also required that Sacraments should be administered “according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same”. And He commanded that Baptism should be performed with water “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”, [Mtt. 28:19 Jn. 3:5.] whilst in the Lord’s Supper He used bread and wine, gave thanks for them, blessed and broke the bread, and declared the elements to be His Body and Blood. [Mk. 14:22–24; Mtt. 26:26–28; 1 Cor. 11:23–25.] Even the variations in the several versions of Jesus’ words and actions at the institution of the Holy Communion serve to indicate the importance attached to them in the evangelical tradition, and our Article is well warranted in requiring their due observance.
Our Lord intended the Church to be truly catholic, to “go into all the world” [Mk. 16:15; Mtt. 28:19.] to proclaim “the whole truth” [Jn. 16:13 (Greek).] of the Gospel to “every creature” [Mk. 16:15.] and to deal with every type of sin. [Jn. 20:23; Mtt. 18:18.] It is also apostolic, as having been “sent” [Jn. 20:21.] and given its mission and Apostolic Ministry by Him. To these three “Notes” of the Church, given in the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed adds that the Church is holy too. The members of the Church are not yet perfectly holy, but we have the capacity for holiness, for, in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, already “we are become partakers of Christ” [Heb. 3:14.] and have been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost”. [Heb. 6:4.]
The doctrine of the Church in the New Testament is in full accord with our own experience. We know very well that we are often unworthy of our high calling as members of the Body of Christ, yet we remain members of the Body unless we willfully reject the privileges of membership. The Prodigal Son was still a son even when he was in the far country; he did not become a son by his act of repentance. We, in our Baptism, became “members of Christ” and “the children of God”. As St. Paul says to the Galatians, “Ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ”. [Gal. 3:26f.] We received “the adoption of sons” in our Baptism, [Gal. 4:5f., Rom. 8:15.] and no subsequent act of ours can confer on us any higher status or privilege. After our Baptism we may, and should as we grow in grace, become more fully aware of the redeeming love of God, and the realization should make us more zealous to serve Him in the fellowship of His Church. But the New Testament knows of no case of a person leaving the Church in order to be saved. On the contrary, those who wanted to be saved joined the Church, as we read in Acts 2:47: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved”.
That carefulness of statement which is a feature of the Articles appears again in the concluding paragraph: “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.” The Church of Rome has admitted many superstitious practices in devotion and ritual, and has added to the Faith such doctrines as Transsubstantiation, Invocation of Saints, and Papal Supremacy, and since the Reformation, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Infallibility of the Pope. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church accepts the Scriptures and the Creeds, and has the traditional Form of the Ministry. As individual Christians do not necessarily forfeit their sainthood through sins and shortcomings, neither do the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome deprive her of a place in the Body of Christ.
Chapter VI – The Church’s Authority In Doctrine
Article XX: OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
[When first drawn up by the English Reformers, this Article lacked the most important first clause, and commenced, “It is not lawful ...”. Archbishop Laud was once accused of forging the clause, but he was able to refute the charge by producing four editions published in Elizabeth’s reign which contained it. The clause was probably inserted on the Queen’s authority, and was ratified by Convocation in 1571.]
The Church hath the power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing 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 any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
This most important Article asserts the authority of the Church (against those, particularly Puritans, who minimized it), and indicates the limits of such authority (against the Roman Church which exaggerated it). The Latin text indicates an important distinction between the Church’s authority in matters of Ceremonial, and her authority in matters of Doctrine: In general, authority is of three kinds: (1) legislative, making laws, (2) judicial, applying and interpreting laws and (3) executive, enforcing laws. The Church can exercise all three types of authority, subject to certain limitations:
The Church has legislative power to decree (ius statuendi) Rites and Ceremonies [A Rite is a Service, a Ceremony is any act accompanying it. But the distinction is not always strictly observed; sometimes the two words are used synonymously.], which includes revision of her forms of Worship, etc. For instance, she could abolish the use of the ring in the Marriage Service, or make regulations concerning the vestments to be worn by the clergy. Only Scripture limits this authority. The Church may not “ordain anything that is contrary to God’s word written.” [E.g., the Church may not introduce the worship of Angels, or abolish the use of water in Baptism or wine in Holy Communion.] Such authority was given to the Church by our Lord, [Matt. 18:18 (cp. 16:19). In Jewish usage “to bind” = to declare forbidden; “to loose” = to declare allowed.] who recognized the authority of the Jewish Church. [Matt. 23:2f.; Luke 17:14; Matt. 8:4.] The Apostles exercised such authority, e.g., by making regulations for the conduct of worship. [1 Cor.11:4f.; 14:26ff; Cf. Article XXIV.]
When people act together for a common purpose, conformity to a prescribed procedure is necessary. Since the presence of Christ among His followers is specially promised where they assemble in His Name for worship, [Mtt. 18:20.] a fixed Form of Service will help to actualize that unity which their coming together already suggests – that is one of the positive advantages of an Order of Service. On the negative side, it checks the expression of individual partiality and contention, which would be incompatible with seemly proceedings. For such reasons the Rites and Ceremonies used in worship are an important concern of the Church.
There are not many references in the New Testament to details of behaviour in places of worship. In his ruling on the dress of worshippers, St. Paul defends the established practice of his day, and suggests that if anyone disagrees with him in holding that a man’s head should be uncovered and a woman’s veiled, he is just being troublesome, and has the custom of the churches against him. [1 Cor. 11:2–16.] Much unbecoming conduct accompanied the observance of the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian Church, which emphasized the social differences among members, and was contrary to the oneness of all in Christ: the Apostle severely rebukes them and promises to put matters right on a future visit. [1 Cor. 11:34.] Clearly St. Paul, as an Apostle and leader in the Church, regarded himself as having authority to intervene and regulate.
The considerations recommended in the New Testament for the performance of the Church’s services are respect for tradition, [1 Cor. 11:2, 16.] the fitness of things for edification, and a sense of comeliness and order. [Ibid. 26, 40.] Complete uniformity in Rites and Ceremonies is not to be expected among the churches of Christendom; a complete lack of uniformity, on the other hand, can gravely imperil the unity of the Church – a proper balance between the two extremes is essential.
A varying appreciation of forms of art, and different standards of decency and appropriateness, – these are part of the many cultures in which the Church has been planted and has grown up, and the churches of different nations and civilizations have the power to devise such ritual and Forms of Service as they deem will be most effective in presenting the Christian message: that is the important matter. Ceremonies, as the Preface Concerning Ceremonies (1549) declares, should be “neither dark nor dumb”, but such as convey their meaning clearly and are least conducive to misunderstanding and superstition.
In matters of faith the Church’s authority is more like that of a guardian or a judge. It may be exercised in binding and loosing, that is, in deciding what is lawful or unlawful for the Christian. [Mtt. 18:15–18.] St. Paul tells the presbyters of the Church in Ephesus that he had communicated to them “the whole counsel of God”. [Acts 20:18–35.] He knows that after his departure false teachers will appear, and he exhorts them to be vigilant; they are to feed the Church and resist the seducers by continuing to proclaim the Gospel he had preached. The warning was soon needed. According to 1 Timothy some of these perverters of the truth, influenced by Gnostic speculations, are known in Ephesus [1 Tim. 1:3, 4.]; and there were others who challenged the Church’s doctrine in the interests of Judaism. [Gal. 1:6, 7; Tit. 1:10, 11; 3:10.] The bulwark against these dangers was the original apostolic teaching which became the tradition of the churches, and was regarded as the only genuine and authoritative presentation of the Gospel; the Church’s leaders claimed exclusive possession of it by right of their appointment: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” [Gal. 1:8; 1 Cor. 11:2; 15:1f.; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6.]
The content of the tradition was the historicity of the life of Jesus, especially His Death and Resurrection, with commentary on their significance. When the tradition was afterwards committed to writing, selections from the collected words of Jesus and an account of the occasions on which they were spoken, were added to form our Gospels. The position of the Apostles [1 Cor. 12:28; Gal 2:9; Eph. 2:20.] invested their Epistles with high value among the churches, and along with the Gospels, they made the New Testament very much the property of the Church; it was the Church’s own record of the Gospel of the grace of God in Jesus [1 Cor. 1:4; Acts 20:24.], written by members for members, and it was for the Church to say what its sacred writings meant. Whenever disputes arose, the Bishop, as head of the local community and successor of the Apostles, was looked upon as the guardian of the Faith, and a decision was sought from him on what the Christian truth was on the questions at issue.
We have seen from St. Paul’s Epistles the bearing of tradition on the active teaching of the Church, and now that the tradition has been embodied in the New Testament and become Scripture, it is a matter of the relation between Church and Scripture. And the relation is the same; the Gospel contained in the written tradition governs Church teaching: the Church is “a witness and keeper of holy Writ, yet ... besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation”. When considering Article VI we noted that the Church not only took over from the Jews the Old Testament, but also adopted the Jewish attitude to Scripture. To the Jew the Law was the perfect word of God to man; the Christians of the first centuries had the same idea of finality in the communication of divine truth, only for them it was the revelation of Jesus: “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”. [1 Cor.3:11; cf. Gal. 1:8f.] It is the office of the Holy Spirit to work on the total Fact of Christ, His teaching, example and work, and lead the Church to new and fuller insights into its inexhaustible meaning. Thus the Church must ever be the teacher and discoverer of the truth which has always been hers in Christ, and never an inventor. All that is necessary for our redemption is to be found there, and however interesting or helpful beliefs and speculations on other subjects may be, they are not to be held essential to salvation.
Thus, the Bible is bound up with the life and witness of the Church. The New Testament books were written by members of the Church; the Church decided which books should be in the Bible;* the Church preserved the Bible by having copies of it made by hand before the invention of printing; the scholars of the Church translated the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament into English, and more recently into almost every known language. Unfortunately these facts are not always acknowledged by those who sometimes use the Bible to persuade people to renounce their allegiance to the Church in order to join some novel sect.
*At first the selection was made by the Bishop of each church who decided which books would be most edifying, but soon a tradition grew up as to which books were of apostolic origin and should be read. Amongst the books which were not included in the Canon are The Gospel of Nicodemus, The Gospel of Peter, The Epistle of Bamabas, The Revelation of Peter, etc., Cf. Excluded Books of the New Testament, p. x.
Biblical truth should be seen and taught as a consistent whole; it is not permissible “so to expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another”. There must [be] no resort to favourite proof-texts bearing a construction and interpretation they were never intended to support; that is the way of the Church of Rome and the sects. It is the duty of the Church’s members, particularly of the Bishops, to safeguard the Faith [1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:13f.; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 7; Jude 3.] and to preserve her doctrine from diminution or accretion. [2 Jn. 9.] The early Church was suspicious of any novelty, for novelty was often tainted with heresy. The principal object of most of the early Councils of the Church was to condemn heresy and to preserve the ancient Faith. Hence, the words of St. Vincent of Lerins became a rule for testing doctrine: “We within the Catholic Church are to take great care that we hold that which hath been believed everywhere always and by all men (semper, ubique, ab omnibus) ... and that we shall do if we follow universality, antiquity, consent.” [Commonitorium, c.2. The general acceptance of this principle in the early days of the Church indicates that the Church then did not claim any power or right of adding to the Faith.] Thus, when controversy arose the Church had to exercise the functions of a judge, and it is this judicial authority (auctoritatem) in controversies of Faith that is asserted in the Article. As a judge has no legislative power to create new laws (that is the function of Parliament), but only authority to interpret and apply the law, so in matters of Faith the Church has no power to create new doctrines, but only judicial authority to determine what is true doctrine. [The Article thus denies the right of even the Church of Rome to add new dogmas to the ancient Faith, such as Transubstantiation (added 1215), Purgatory (1439), The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1854) and her Assumption (1950) or Papal Infallibility (1870).]
While the Article repudiates the Roman Church’s practice in adding new dogmas to the ancient Faith, by asserting the Church’s judicial authority, it repudiates also the ultra-Protestant view that the Holy Spirit in the individual is the sole interpreter of Scripture (a doctrine which has produced innumerable Protestant sects). Article VI limits the Faith to “whatsoever” is “read therein” or “proved thereby”, but it does not state who is to decide what is proveable by appeal to Scripture. Article XX is therefore supplementary to VI, for it in fact declares that when a dispute arises as to the correct interpretation of Scripture, the Church has authority to decide the issue. The exercise of private judgement is also controlled by Article XXXIV. In interpreting Scripture we follow the traditional Catholic practice of interpreting difficult passages as they have usually been interpreted by the Church. “Let the Scripture, therefore, as sensed by the Primitive Church, and not by the private judgement of any particular man, be allowed and agreed by us to be the Rule of our Faith; and let that be accounted the true Church, whose Faith and Doctrine is most conformable and agreeable with the Primitive”. [Wm. Payne, Rector of Whitechapel (1650–1696). Cf. further on this point, W. G. Wilson, Church Teaching, pp. 30–34.]
Article XXI: Of The Authority Of General Councils
[Only a few small verbal alterations have been made in this Article since its composition as one of the Forty-two Articles, for instance, after “erred” it had originally “not only in worldly matters but also in”.]
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 to 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.
In the preceding Article on the authority of the Church we noted the distinction between the Church’s judicial authority in matters of Faith, and her legislative authority in respect of Rites and Ceremonies. The Preface Concerning Ceremonies (1549) concedes that “every country should use such Ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of God’s honour and glory ... without error or superstition”. It is generally agreed that, owing to different customs and standards of taste among different peoples, the churches of the various nations must be allowed to decide which Rites and Ceremonies are most convenient and appropriate for use in public worship. Each national church, as the local representative of the one Catholic Church, acts in such matters through its own synods or councils.
This Article, however, is concerned with General Councils as distinct from local or national synods or councils. A General Council is an assembly of the chief persons, especially the Bishops, in the churches throughout the world for the purpose of determining the truth on subjects of controversy which vitally concern the doctrine and order of the whole Church. Our Lord commissioned the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations” [Mtt. 28:19f.], and promised them the guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach them “all things” [Jn. 14:26; cf. 2:22; 12:16.] and to guide them into “the whole truth”. [Jn. 16:13 (GK).] The same authority and responsibility for safeguarding the Faith was given to Timothy and Titus and to Bishops generally. But even Apostles could err [E.g., Peter’s vacillation – In Acts 11:1–18 he justified eating with Gentiles; later he refused to eat with Gentiles and was rebuked (Gal. 2:11f).], and Bishops as individuals have sometimes failed to express the true voice of the Church. Hence the early Church found it desirable to follow the Apostolic example [The Apostles summoned the Council of Jerusalem to decide the vexed issue of the relation of the Jewish Law to the Gospel (Acts 15.).] of summoning Councils representative of the whole Church to decide disputed points of faith and practice.
There was no means of summoning a General Council until the Roman Empire became officially Christian, for only an imperial edict could command obedience everywhere, and provide the facilities for attendance. The first General Council, held at Nicaea (A.D. 325), was summoned by the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, and all the other “General” or “Ecumenical” Councils were summoned by the head of the state: the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381) by Theodosius I; the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) by Theodosius II; the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) by Marcianus ; the second Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553) by Justinian ; the third Council of Constantinople (A.D. 680) by Constantine Pogonatus; the second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787) by the Empress Irene, (which sanctioned the adoration of images and declared the Bread and Wine in the Eucharist to be the very Body and Blood of Christ). Hence the remark of the 5th century ecclesiastical historian, Socrates: “We continually include the Emperors in our history, because from the time they began to profess Christianity the affairs of the Church depended upon them, and according to their will the greatest Councils were and are still assembled”. [Socrates, Hist. v.1.]
There was abundant precedent in the history of Israel for this relation between the civil and religious departments in the state. It was Moses the leader, and not Aaron the priest, who called together the seventy elders [Num. 11:16.] the predecessors of the standing Council of the Jewish people, the Sanhedrim; David commanded the priests to arrange for the return of the Ark of the Covenant; [1 Chron. 13:1–3.] and Solomon ordered them to bring it to its place in the Temple. [1 Kings 8:1–6.]
The Church survived the collapse of the declining Empire under the attacks of the heathen Goths and Franks in the 5th century, and set about converting them. In the work of stabilization and reconstruction that followed, the influence and pretensions of the papacy steadily grew; the struggle for supremacy between Church and State began in earnest, and a decisive event in the conflict took place on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, when the Emperor Charlemange did fealty to the Pope and received from him the imperial crown. Papal claims were a main issue in the separation between Eastern and Western Christendom in A.D. 1054, after which the West settled down under increasing subjection to the Roman see in the Middle Ages.
But the desire for freedom was not totally crushed during what Luther called the Babylonish captivity of the Church; there was always an underground resistance movement, which occasionally broke into open revolt. Several events in the century preceding the Reformation gave an immense impetus to this spirit: the Greeks with the traditional freedom of their civilization poured into western Europe after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks (A.D. 1453); the view was put forward that the earth was not the fixed centre of the universe, but turned on its axis and moved like the stars; most exciting of all, the discoveries of the navigators had proved that there were other peoples and cultures whose existence had never been guessed. The liberating and expansive effects of these happenings were enormous; they powerfully contributed to the intellectual atmosphere of the Reformation age. A new-found sense of freedom was abroad which expressed itself in resentment at papal usurpation and fostered demands for national independence. The Anglican Reformation is the best example of this movement. By abolishing papal jurisdiction and asserting his headship of the national Church, Henry VIII laid the foundation of future ecclesiastical reform.
The Act of Supremacy restored at once the ancient rights of the civil power in Church affairs, and implied a return to the original method of summoning General Councils. At the time of the Reformation considerable effort was made to get a General Council convoked; both Luther and Cranmer appealed for one. Pope Paul III summoned the Council of Trent (1545–1563), but the Reformers did not acknowledge his authority to do so; besides, no representative from the Church of England could have attended without royal consent.
Many Councils have been held, but not all of the them are recognized as “General Councils”. In practice, “the ecumenicity of a Council depends on the after reception of its decisions by the whole Church. [E. J. Bicknell, Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles, p. 272.] . Thus”, the first Council of Nicaea (325) received recognition as “General” because its decisions received general approval, but the Council of Arminium did not. The Roman Church recognizes eighteen Councils as “General” or Ecumenical, but most of them (like Trent) were purely Roman Councils and not strictly ecumenical. The Anglican Communion only recognizes the first six Councils “which were allowed and received of all men” [Homily Against Peril of Idolatry, cf. Article XXXV.], and the Greek Orthodox Church accepts only the first seven (including Nicaea II) as ecumenical. Article XXI was composed by the English Reformers in 1552, and was then intended as an explicit declaration that the Anglican Church would not be bound by the decisions of the Council of Trent.
The purpose of General Councils has been to state the Church’s belief on disputed questions, and to determine matters of discipline and order. The qualification for this task is not that the members of a Council are the elected delegates of the churches, but that they should be men “governed with the Spirit and Word of God”. The supreme requisite is a sincere desire to know and do the divine will: “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God”. [Jn. 7:17.] Spiritual things are spiritually judged, and possession of the Spirit is the condition for discerning “the deep things of God”. To have the mind of Christ is for St. Paul the one way of knowing the saving truth which is in Him. [1 Cor. 2:10–16.] As the history of the Councils fully shows, these qualities were not prominent in their proceedings, which were ruled too often by political intrigue and party interests. Composed as they were of fallible men, Councils “may err, and have erred ... 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.” We regard as errors the decrees of the second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787) which sanctioned the adoration of images; that of the Council of Constance (A.D. 1414) withholding the cup from the laity in the Holy Communion; that of the Lateran Council (A.D. 1215), defining the doctrine of Transubstantiation; the belief in Purgatory drawn up by the Council of Florence (A.D. 1439); and the decrees of the Vatican Councils of 1869 (which declared Papal Infallibility), 1854 (declared Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and 1950 (declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). None of these dogmas satisfy St. Vincent’s Canon as having been believed and taught “everywhere, always, and by all”.
Article XXII: Of Purgatory
[Composed as one of the Forty-two Articles (1553) by the English Reformers, but possibly had been derived partially from the Smalcaldic Article of 1537 which refers to the same errors as “not grounded on Scripture” and “most pernicious”. The word “perniciose” was in the 1553 Article but was omitted in 1563. The opening words, “The Romish doctrine”, were substituted in 1563 for the original “The doctrine of School Authors” in the 1553 version.]
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.
The significant term for understanding the intention of this Article is the word “Romish”. It is possible to see behind beliefs and practices like Purgatory, the Worshipping and Adoration of Images and Relics, and the Invocation of Saints some ideas which are harmless and helpful enough; but as developed in Romanism they have been fatally corrupted. And the most potent cause of this corruption has been a wrong conception of merit. According to the doctrine of Purgatory a distinction is to be drawn between mortal and venial sins: the reward of the former is everlasting torment, and lies outside the scope of the doctrine; it is with the punishment due to less serious offences, that Purgatory deals. The Council of Trent affirmed that after the pardon of eternal punishment there still remains “a guilt of temporal punishment to be paid for either in this world, or in the future in purgatory”. [Session vi, Canon 30. The only Scripture passages cited by Fr. Bertrand Conway are Num. 20:12; 2 Sam. 12:13f.; Wisdom 7:25; Isa. 25:8; Hab. 1:13; Rev. 21:7; 2 Maccabees 12:43–46; Mtt. 11:32; 1 Cor. 3:11–15, but none of these passages really supports the Roman doctrine.] We have already seen [Article IV, (5) above.] that the Final Judgement is everywhere in the New Testament associated with Christ’s return “in glory” [Mtt. 25:31–46.] when the dead shall rise to be judged. [Acts 10:42; 1 Thess. 4:14–17.] This suggests an intermediate state of existence between death and resurrection. Our Lord said to the dying thief “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,” but we have His own assertion that during the period between His death and resurrection He had not returned to heaven: “I am not yet ascended unto the Father”, He said to Mary Magdalene, [Jn. 20:17.] and St. Peter believed that at death He went and preached to “the spirits in prison”. [1 Pet. 3:19; cf. Article III above.] Paradise cannot therefore be a synonym for Heaven. St. Paul did not regard death as severing the union between Christ and the Christian, [1 Thess, 4:13–16.] but as the entrance into a fuller union with Him. [2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:23.] But he regarded the soul, when separated by death from the body, as in some sense “unclothed” and waiting for the resurrection body “our habitation which is from heaven”. [2 Cor. 5:1–4, (R.V.)] The Christian waits for a Saviour from heaven “Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory.” [Phil. 3:20f, (R.V.)] But this clearly refers not to the moment of our death, but to the Appearing of Christ. The award of “the crown of righteousness” is associated, too, with the Appearance; not with death. [2 Tim. 4:6–8.] And the putting on of immortality and final defeat of death is also assigned to the general resurrection at the last day. [1 Cor. 15:51ff.; Heb. 9:28.] Despite difficulties of interpretation in some cases, Scripture suggests that the faithful departed are still awaiting the attainment of their full bliss. There is a belief in an intermediate state of existence between death and Heaven. That belief is expressed also in the Collect in the 1662 Burial Office – still widely in use in the Anglican Communion: “We meekly beseech Thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in Him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in Thy sight; and receive that blessing which Thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear Thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of My Father, receive the Kingdom, prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Note the marked distinction between “rest in Him” [Cp. Rev. 14:13, “rest from their labours”.] the immediate lot of the (presumedly) faithful departed, and the “receive the kingdom”, to be pronounced only “at the general resurrection in the last day”.
Belief in an Intermediate State between death and Judgement, which is a fundamental presupposition of the doctrine of Purgatory, is part of Christianity’s legacy from Judaism. For instance, in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus [Lk. 16:19–31.] our Lord uses a familiar Jewish conception of the next life, according to which there is a division of souls; some are “comforted”, others are in “a place of torment”, and the “gulf” between them is impassable. The passage on Christ’s preaching to “the spirits in prison” may have a similar background. [1 Pet. 3:18.] These Jewish elements in the New Testament are all the support that can be derived from it for the doctrine of Purgatory. It is interesting, also, to find that the earliest instance of prayer for the dead for release from sin comes from the Jewish apocryphal Second Book of Maccabees [Maccabees 12:39–45.], which the Roman Catholic Church reckons as Scripture, but we do not. [Cf. Article VI, above.]
In Christian teaching based on Christ’s complete revelation and achievement, the ruling thought is the same for life here and hereafter: the faithful stand in a new relationship to God in Christ now, and after death they “sleep in Jesus” [1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15:6; Rev. 14:13.]; for St. Paul to depart from this life is to be with Christ, [Phil. 1:23.] or “at home with the Lord”. [2 Cor. 5:8.] The evidence of the epitaphs in the Catacombs at Rome to the Christian Hope is at once simple and eloquent: it is either assumed that the faithful departed are in light, refreshment and peace, or their friends pray that they may be; there is not a hint of discomfort or suffering. In the New Testament future punishment is usually connected with the Last Judgement and after, and not with the experience of spirits in the Intermediate State. [Even in 1 Cor. 3:10–15 the “fire” is probatory rather than purgatorial.]
Acceptance of belief in an Intermediate State (for which there is considerable evidence) is very different from the Roman doctrine of Purgatory. It is important to note “the clear and important distinction between the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and a general belief in spiritual progress in the Intermediate State. The latter may be held apart from any thought of Purgatory, for the Roman doctrine is really part of a penal process, the payment of a debt which was not fully discharged on earth, a view based on the distinction between mortal and venial sins. But to carry the penal consequences of sin into the next world is really to deny the fullness and completeness of Atonement and Justification.” [Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, p. 302.] Belief in Purgatory did not become a dogma of the Faith until the Council of Florence in 1439. The Eastern Orthodox Church, while accepting a process of purification after death, protests against the Roman view of purgatory as an innovation unknown to Scripture.
If Purgatory is a corruption of the Scriptural doctrine of an Intermediate State, the second part of the doctrine described in our Article as “a fond thing” (res futilis), Pardons or Indulgences, is closely connected with Purgatory and furnishes a further example of such corruption. Nothing illustrates better the deep moral earnestness of primitive Christianity than its treatment of offenders. Those who had committed grave sins were excluded from the normal life of the Church for periods proportionate to the transgression, and had imposed upon them disciplinary and religious exercises to bring about their recovery. The whole aim of the course of Penance was to induce a sincere repentance, evidence of which was required before offenders were readmitted to full communion with the Church. Such evidence might appear before the prescribed penance was completed; in which case the remainder could be remitted, and the penitent immediately restored to his Christian privileges; this remission of penance was a Pardon or Indulgence. Thus, Indulgences were originally only alleviations or shortenings of the terms of penance imposed on offenders. About the 7th century, however, the system of “Penitentials” developed, whereby an indulgence or remission of penalty could be purchased by almsdeeds and gifts to the Church. At the Council of Clermont (A.D. 1095) Pope Urban II promised complete remission of penalties to all who would take part in Crusades. Thenceforth a man could purchase remission of the temporal penalties [We have noted the distinction between mortal sin (deserving eternal punishment) and venial sin (meriting only temporal punishment), cf. Article XVI above.] of sin by performing acts of devotion that would be profitable to the Church. But the most serious development was the growth of the idea that Indulgences could be purchased to reduce or wipe out the punishment to be worked out in Purgatory. [“Whereas guilt (culpa) of sin was forgiven in absolution, a temporal punishment (poena) was still due, and this punishment must be worked off, if not in this life, then in Purgatory”, E. J. Bicknell, Op. cit., p. 286.] The Schoolmen taught that in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross there was infinite merit – more than was required for the salvation of the world. The surplus formed a “Treasury of Merit” to which was added the merit earned by Works of Supererogation. [Article XIV.] The Popes claimed, as having the power of the keys, to be able to use this excess merit to help the souls in Purgatory, and a lucrative business developed in “Plenary Indulgences”. [“Plenary Indulgence” means remission of all purgatorial suffering.] In A.D. 1300 Pope Boniface VIII instituted Jubilee Years, which now occur every quarter of a century, and bestowed a Plenary Indulgence on all who should visit the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome during the last year of any century. The abuse of Penance had reached its height when Indulgences were offered for sale; a stock of remission from temporal punishment could then be built up. It is this debased view that underlies Masses for the dead to mitigate purgatorial pains. The development of such mercenary traffic in Indulgences did much to precipitate the Reformation.
The use of carved images, models, or pictures, can be a valuable aid to the teaching of religion, as is recognized in all modern systems of religious education. The Jews used images for sacred purposes, [E.g., the brazen serpent (Num. 21:9), golden cherubim (Exod. 25:18 ), etc.] and the early Christians adorned the Catacombs with symbolic paintings. But there are few traces of the use of Christian statues during the first five centuries. The Greek Church still regards “images” as a violation of the second commandment and uses only “ikons”. [Ikons are representations of our Lord and of the saints in mosaic or painting.] In Western Christendom, however, the use of images as aids to devotion developed. Although there was originally no intention of encouraging the worshipping of images, it was difficult for unlearned people to reverence them without developing a superstitious regard for them that, in practice, differed little from worship. Gregory the Great found it necessary to protest against abuses, [Ep. 7. He forbade the worship or adoration of images, but permitted their use for instruction purposes.] and in the East the Emperor Leo the Isaurian ordered the destruction of all Ikons. This led to the Iconoclastic controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries, between the Popes and the Emperors, in which the former generally favoured retention; the latter, destruction of images and ikons. The Second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787) decided in favour of the veneration of images, directing that they should be “treated as holy memorials, worshipped, kissed, only without that peculiar adoration (latria) which is reserved for the Invisible, Incomprehensible God”. The Anglican Church does not recognize Nicaea II as a General Council. [Article XXI. above.] But the Church of Rome has followed it,* and has made distinctions between three degrees of reverence: (1) Latria, the supreme worship due to God alone, (2) Hyperdulia, a degree of reverence due to the Blessed Virgin alone, (3) Dulia, the degree of reverence due to the saints and their images. But “there is no such thing as a devotional thermometer”, and such distinctions are not observed in practice. While the second commandment does not condemn images in themselves, it states unequivocally “thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them”.
*The Council of Trent decreed: “The images of Christ and the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and to be kept especially in churches, and due honour and veneration are to be given to them ... the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which these images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and we venerate the saints whose likeness they bear”. (Session xxv).
With every care to avoid overstatement, it remains true to say that in the Romanism which the Reformers knew, the veneration of images and relics, and the adoration and invocation of saints, had reached the stage of idolatry, the horror of biblical religion. The worshipping of relics seems to have grown out of the immense regard for the martyrs, as the account of Polycarp’s death would suggest. Concerning the attitude to saints, St. Peter will not allow the posture of worship, [Acts. 10:26.] and in Revelation, with its background of Emperor-worship, the angel forbids St. John to worship him. [Rev. 19:10; 22:9.] Scripture and the primitive Church draw the sharpest line between the object of worship and all other being whatsoever; worship is an honour paid to God alone: “God’s laws”, writes Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (A.D. 168) “forbid not only the worship of idols, but all other creatures, the sun, moon, and the stars, heaven, earth, and sea; and command the worship of the true God alone, who is the Creator of all things.” The great argument of the Fathers for the divinity of Christ in the Arian controversy was that He had been worshipped in the Church from the beginning.
The Council of Trent declared that, “the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them” [“Invocation” may mean (1) a simple request to a saint for his prayers, such as “ora pro nobis”, or (2) a request for some particular benefit.], and to have recourse to their prayers”. [Council of Trent, Session xxv.] But there is no early evidence to support such a doctrine. The Invocation of Saints is an infringement of our Lord’s role in the relation between God and Man, and against the uniform teaching of the New Testament and the early Church on His unique mediatorship and high priesthood: “There is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus”. [1 Tim. 2:5; Jn. 14:6; Heb. 7:24f.] “Every prayer, and supplication, and intercession, and thanksgiving,” says Origen, “is to be sent up to the supreme God through the High Priest, who is above all the angels, the living Word and God”. [Contra Celsus, v.4.] Neither in Scripture nor in any Christian writing of the first three centuries is there any allusion to asking departed Christians for their prayers. “The first introduction of invocations to a saint into public worship is said to have been made by Peter the Fuller, the monophysite Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 480 A.D.).” [E. J. Bicknell, Op. cit. p. 294.] We reject the practice of invoking the saints to pray for us, for several further reasons: (a) There is no evidence that the saints can hear our prayers. The strongest argument that can be offered is that “the saints enjoy the vision of God, and as God sees all things they also see them in God as in a mirror”. But that assumption makes God a medium – we pray to a saint to intercede for us; God hears the prayer and tells the saint; the saint then intercedes! In short, God acts as a medium between man and the saint; and the saint then acts as a medium between man and God! (b) There is no evidence in Scripture or the early Fathers that any of the departed enter the full glories of heaven and the inner Presence of God until after the general resurrection “at the last day”. [1 Cor. 15:51ff.; Heb. 9:28. This is the view also of Justin Martyr (Dial. with Trypho, c.80), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. v.31), and Tertullian (De Anima, c.55).] The souls of the martyrs may be viewed as praying “under the altar”, but that does not mean “before the Throne”. There is in fact no evidence that they are in a position to intercede for us as yet. (c) If the saints can hear our petitions at any time, and thousands may be continually invoking them, they must share the divine attributes of omniscience and omnipresence! But there is no evidence that they do. We refuse to impose this doctrine on our people by practising invocation of saints in public worship, because it has not been practised “everywhere, always, and by all” (semper, ubigue, ab omnibus), and therefore fails to pass that classic test by which Catholic truth is distinguished from error.
Roman apologists are at their weakest in trying to defend these accretions to the Faith; verses have been taken out of their contexts and had meanings forced upon them which no modern scholarship would support. The Article gives the simple reason for their impossible task; these beliefs and practices illustrate the declaration in Article XIX that the Church of Rome has erred in matters of Faith, for they are “grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God”.
Chapter VII – The Church’s Authority In Discipline
Article XXIV: On Speaking In The Congregation In Such A Tongue
As The People Understandeth
[Derived partly from the Confession of Augsburg, and partly from The Thirteen Articles of 1553.]
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.
If there is one corruption confirmed by the Roman Church at the Council of Trent which is against reason, the teaching of the New Testament and the practice of the Primitive Church, it is the use in worship of a language not understood by the people. A common tongue is the great medium of realizing the advantages of public worship, the concerted approach to God of His people in intelligible service of praise and prayer, and the spiritual comfort and strength which comes from hearing together the history of our redemption and its meaning expounded. Agreement in our petitions, which Jesus teaches is so important, is obtained by voicing them together in the meetings of His followers: “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” [Mtt. 18:19f.] Speaking with tongues (glossolalia) was a familiar form of the Spirit’s manifestation in the early Church, and he who had this gift might indeed speak to God and edify himself; but unless his utterances were interpreted in language known to all, they contributed nothing to the benefit of Christian assemblies; spiritual support and enlightenment could only come from intelligent worship. St. Paul did not rate the use of tongues highly: “Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the Church may receive edifying”. [Cor. 14:5.] “I thank God”, the Apostle continues, “I speak with tongues more than you all: howbeit in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue”. [1 Cor. 14:19; cf. Eph. 5:18f.; Col. 3:16.]
Speaking with tongues is almost the last of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, and after the rapture and enthusiasm of the first Christian generation had subsided, it waned; ecstatic outbursts made for disorder, and without interpretation were unprofitable. The language in ordinary use was always that used in the Church’s worship. Among Christians, says Origen, “the Greeks use Greek names, the Romans Latin names, and everyone prays and sings praises to God in his mother tongue”. [Contra Celsus, 8:37.] St. Augustine exhorted the priests to cultivate good Latin, so that the people might understand clearly what it is to which they reply, Amen. “There is nothing more certain in history, than that the service of the ancient Church was always performed in the vulgar or common language of every country, that is, such as was either commonly spoken, or at least commonly understood.” [Bingham, Antiquities. xiii.4.]
How the Church’s services came to be rendered in an unknown language is easily explained. The two greatest world-conquering powers of antiquity, Greece and Rome, spread their languages Greek and Latin, throughout their domains. In the West this meant that Latin became the official tongue; the standard version of the Scriptures, St. Jerome’s Vulgate, and the Church’s Liturgy were in Latin. It was natural that such should be the case, for Latin was then the language used by educated people throughout the greater part of the Roman Empire, and it was very fitting that Latin should be used in the worship of the Church. But Latin gradually became a dead language, unintelligible to the majority of the people, for racial and cultural differences effected modifications of the general imperial language, and various dialects developed which eventually led to modern European languages, such as English, French, Spanish or Italian. Nevertheless, the Roman Church insisted on the use of Latin in her services, and tried to justify its retention on the ground that it strengthened the unity of the Church, was conducive to reverence, and helped to preserve the Faith since it was less liable than modern languages to suffer corruption.
The Anglican Reformers were particularly anxious to follow the Apostolic principle that “all things be done to edifying” [1 Cor. 14:26.; cf. Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 8:1; 10:23; Ephes. 2:21.], and insisted that Public Worship should be in the vernacular. This is in full accord with the biblical emphasis on edification – “Unless your tongue utters language that is readily understood, how can people make out what you say? You will be pouring words into the empty air,” [1 Cor. 14:9 (Moffatt).] says St. Paul. He therefore emphasizes that praying and singing, [1 Cor. 14:15.] as well as preaching or “prophesying” [1 Cor. 14:6f.] should be “with the understanding”, [1 Cor. 14:16, 18, 19.] and therefore in the vernacular.
The Article appeals to “the custom of the Primitive Church” as well as to the Bible. All the primitive liturgies were in the native language of the people for whom they were written. Latin cannot be regarded as more sacred than any other language. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, but was translated into Greek to suit Greek-speaking Jews. A Roman Catholic writer points out that “the Italo-Greeks of Southern Italy have said Mass in Greek for over a thousand years, while the Melkites of Syria, Palestine and Egypt use Arabic and Greek. The Byzantine rite is used by the Eastern Orthodox Church in fourteen different languages. ... Greek was originally the language of the Roman Liturgy, Latin superseding it by the beginning of the 5th century”. [Bertrand L. Conway, The Question Box, p. 272.]
Some men regard this Article as justifying the revision of the entire Prayer Book on the ground that its Tudor English is “not understanded of the people” [K. N. Ross, The Thirty-nine Articles (1957), p. 81f.]; others extend its scope to include audible and distinct pronunciation, since even the mother-tongue may be unintelligently rendered. [W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology. p. 340.]
Article XXXII: Of The Marriage Of Priests
[This Article was written by Parker in 1563; the 1553 Article on the subject was less positive.]
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow 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.
The Anglican Church in this Article also exercises her authority to abolish the pre-Reformation law of the celibacy of the clergy. It is well known that the Jewish priests married [Judges 20:28.], and that the High Priest’s office was hereditary. [The High Priest was succeeded by his son, or son-in-law (John 18:13).] St. Paul’s views on marriage vary; sometimes he prefers the unmarried state [1 Cor. 7:1, 7f., 38.], probably due to his belief that Christ’s Second Coming was imminent [1 Cor. 7:29, 31.]; at other times he regarded the married state as normal in the Church. [Col. 3:18ff; 1 Cor. 9:5.] Our Lord recognized the value of celibacy in certain circumstances, [Matt. 19:10–12.] but by His attendance at the wedding in Cana [John 2.] and in His teaching He stressed the sanctity of marriage as a Divine institution. [Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:5ff.; Luke 16:18.] In fact, so sacred is it, that it is portrayed as a type of “the union betwixt Christ and His Church.” [Ephes. 5:22ff.] St. Peter was a married man, [Mark 1:30.] as were “the rest of the Apostles and the brethren of the Lord,” [1 Cor. 9:5 (Moffatt).] and the Pastoral Epistles require both deacons and bishops to be the “husband of one wife.” [1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Tit. 1:5f; cf. Acts 21:9.] There is, therefore, no Biblical authority for imposing celibacy as an universal condition upon all clergy: on the contrary, “forbidding to marry” is classed with “doctrines of devils”. [1 Tim. 4:3.]
No law enforcing clerical celibacy was passed until the fourth century. There is ample evidence of married clergy in the earliest centuries of the Church’s life. For instance, Clement of Alexandria (150–216 A.D.) mentions married priests and deacons, [Strom. iii.12.] and the historian Socrates refers to a married episcopate in the Eastern Churches. [Hist. Eccles. v.22.] The Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) refused to enforce celibacy. In the Eastern Church, celibacy is not enforced upon priests and deacons, though bishops have been expected to observe celibacy since the time of the Emperor Justinian (527–565 A.D.). In Western Christendom, the Popes have used their influence to promote celibacy since the fourth century, when Pope Siricius in 385 A.D. issued a decree to the Bishop of Tarragona, forbidding the marriage of priests and deacons.
But despite Papal decrees and decisions of Councils, celibacy was not universally observed, and did not become the universal law of the English Church until the time of Anselm in 1102 A.D. A Roman Catholic writer says, “Clerical celibacy is not a divine law, but a Church law dating only from the fourth century. It does not depend on precedent; it is founded on the Church’s estimate of the more perfect following of Christ by her clergy.” [Rev. Bertrand L. Conway, of the Paulist Fathers, in The Question Box (1929) p. 317.] The Anglican Church, following the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, permits celibacy to those who prefer it, but does not enforce it as an universal law. We recognize that “There is nothing in marriage that cannot be consecrated to the service of God.” [E. J. Bicknell, Op. cit., p. 314.] Clergy of the Anglican Communion are therefore free “to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.”
Article XXXIII: Of Excommunicate Persons, How They Are To Be Avoided
[The original title of this Article when it was published in 1553 was “Excommunicate Persons are to be avoided”. No other change of substance has been made.]
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.
Like any other society, the Church has the right to expel, temporarily or permanently, those who are disloyal to her principles. The Jewish Church practiced excommunication [To excommunicate means to exclude from the communion and privileges of the Church.] at least from the time of Ezra. [Ezra. 10:8.] In the Gospels we find several references to “separation from the synagogue” as a penalty imposed on offenders. [Jn 9:22; 12:42; 16:2; cf. Lk. 6:22.] Our Lord gave the Church authority to “bind and” to “loose” [Mtt. 16:19; 18:18; Jn. 20:23.], which are Rabbinical expressions meaning to “prohibit” and to “permit”, and would suggest to Jews a form of ecclesiastical discipline. [J. H. Bernard, St. John. I.C.C., vol. ii., p. 680.] He also suggested a definite procedure (possibly based on a similar Jewish procedure), consisting of (a) private admonition of the offender, (b) admonition in the presence of two or three witnesses, and (c) if both of these failed, then the offence should be reported in the presence of the Church. If the offender failed to hear the Church, he was to be treated as “an heathen man and a publican,” [Mtt. 18:15–18.] that is, as one outside the fellowship of the Church. Here “Our Lord lays down a general principle which the Church has embodied in her system of discipline. She can only enforce obedience by spiritual penalties such as depriving the offender of certain privileges of membership. The final penalty is that of depriving him of membership altogether.” [E. J. Bicknell, Op. cit., p. 315.]
In New Testament times we find that the Church did in fact exercise such discipline. For instance, when St. Paul discovered that a member of the Church in Corinth had committed a grave moral sin, [1 Cor. v.1,2.] he exercised his authority as an Apostle to excommunicate the offender [1 Cor. v.3.] and directed the Church to carry out the sentence at a public assembly.* But the object of such a severe sentence was remedial “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In, another case, he orders the reinstatement of an offender who had apparently shown signs of remorse, saying “This censure from the majority is severe enough for the individual in question, so that instead of censuring you should now forgive him and comfort him, in case the man is overwhelmed by excessive remorse. So I beg you to reinstate him in your love.” [2 Cor. 2:6–8 (Moffatt).]
*1 Cor. v.4f. The expression “deliver unto Satan” expresses the belief that the Church is the sphere of salvation, and exclusion from the fellowship of the Church means that the offender is put out into the sphere in which Satan is supreme (Cp. Col. 1:13). Sickness and death was sometimes regarded as a punishment for sin (Acts. 5:1–11; 2 Cor. 12:7; Heb. 2:14).
In Apostolic times, a very serious view was taken of those who deliberately proclaimed false teaching. Hymenaeus and Alexander were excommunicated for false teaching about the resurrection. [1 Tim. 1:19f; cf. 2 Tim. 2:17f.] 2 John 10f directs that a teacher of false doctrine should not be admitted to one’s house, “do not even greet him, for he who greets him shares in his wicked work.” [2 Jn. 11 (Moffatt).] St. Paul went so far as to anathematize false teachers: “As we have said before, so say I now again. If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema,”* which is, in effect, a sentence of complete excommunication.
*Gal. 1:9 (R.V.); The Greek word anathema is the LXX equivalent of the Hebrew word cherem, (meaning “curse” or “ban”) and its use in Gal. 1:9, and 1 Cor. 16:22 means “permanent exclusion from the Church and doubtless from heaven.” (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (1946), p. 248). Cf. Archbishop Trench’s evidence that St. Paul’s use of the word anathema implies “utter loss,” Synonyms of the N. T., p. 19.
The Article was composed by the English Reformers in 1552 to assert the Church’s power to excommunicate and that such excommunication ought to be recognized by the faithful members of the Church. In the early Church, discipline took three forms: (1) Admonition, as in Matt. 18:15–17, Tit. 3:10; (2) Lesser Excommunication, which included suspension from Holy Communion, but not from the Church; and (3) Greater Excommunication, or Anathema, was imposed on persistent sinners who ignored repeated Admonition. If those excommunicated did not repent they were excluded from the Church, and denied all privileges of Church membership, including Communion before death, and Christian burial. Although excommunication is not often now practiced, the Irish Prayer Book makes provision for all three of the above forms: (1) If a person “living in open and notorious sin” proposes to come to Holy Communion, he is to be “privately admonished” not to do so, “till the cause of the offence shall have been removed.” [Rubric 2 in the H.C. Office.] (2) If the offender ignores the Admonition, and comes to Communion, he is not to be received as a communicant: [Canon 49, Irish Prayer Book.] (3) The Burial Office is “not to be used for any that die unbaptized or excommunicate.”* In the 1662 Prayer Book, the rubric directed that excommunications should be read out after the Nicene Creed.
*Rubric 1 in Burial Office of Irish, Scottish, S. African (rubric 3 in Canadian) Prayer Books; American rubric directs Burial Office is “to be used only for the faithful departed in Christ, ... in any other case the Minister may, at his discretion, use such part of this Office, or such devotions taken from other parts of this Book, as may be fitting”.
Excommunication is to be “by open denunciation”, which presupposes an open trial and promulgation of the Church’s sentence by some duly authorized person. Such excommunication is to remain effective until the offender is “openly reconciled”, as publicly as he was denounced. The “Judge” in such cases would be the Bishop or Ecclesiastical Court.
Article XXXIV: Of The Traditions Of The Church
[The first paragraph of this Article was derived from the fifth of the Thirteen Articles (1538), the word “times” being added in 1563 for more comprehensiveness. The last paragraph was also added in 1563.]
It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, 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 be rebuked openly (that other 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.
This Article asserts the liberty of National Churches “to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites,” and at the same time condemns any individual who “willingly, purposely, and openly breaks the traditions and ceremonies of the Church.” It will be observed that the liberty of a National Church is limited to the variation of rites and ceremonies “ordained only by man’s authority”; it cannot “ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written.” [Article XX.]
The basis of the right to change custom is the historical fact that customs have varied in the past. Local branches of the Catholic Church in various places developed, often unconsciously, customary ways of worship, and formulated rules for the guidance of their members. Such customs and rules varied from place to place, and were recognized and approved by many of the highest authorities in the Church. For instance, a ceremonial feet-washing (the “Pedilavium”) accompanied Baptism in the Gallican Church and in Milan, but was not practised in Spain or in Rome. [Duchesne, Christian Worship, its Origin & Evolution, p. 326.] Many non-Roman customs and usages were practiced in the early Celtic Church.) [Cf. W. G. Wilson, Church Teaching, p. 8ff. for a brief summary.] The Eucharist was celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays in Africa and in Jerusalem, but not in Rome. [Duchesne, Op. cit., p. 230.] Saturday was observed as a day of fasting in Rome and North Africa, but not in Milan. [Ibid. p. 231.] St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (375–397 A.D.) advised St. Augustine to conform to local customs: “When I am here (in Milan) I do not fast on Saturday; but when I am at Rome I do: whatever Church you may come to, conform to its custom, if you would avoid either giving or receiving offence.” [Ep., 54.]
It is evident, therefore, that in the Primitive Church absolute uniformity in rites and ceremonies was not considered desirable or essential. But as the influence of the Church of Rome spread, she tried to bring all local customs into conformity with the Roman customs. Article XXXIV is a reply to the Council of Trent’s refusal to recognize National Churches, and its insistence on uniformity of doctrine, ceremonial, and discipline.
It was the declared aim and object of the Anglican Reformers to return to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church. They justified the changes they made by appealing to Scripture and Antiquity, [The primitive beliefs and customs not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Cp. Preface to the Ordinal: “It is evident to all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors ....”] and believed that due weight and authority must be given to the ancient customs of the Church. In reviewing the Ceremonies that had been in use before the Reformation, they rejected those which “blinded the people, and obscured the glory of God,” but retained others for the sake of “order in the Church” and “edification”. To those who objected to the retention of any of the old Ceremonies, they pointed out that “without some Ceremonies it is not possible to keep any order or quiet discipline in the Church,” and therefore “where the old may be well used” they ought to be reverenced for their antiquity,” in preference to “innovations and new-fangleness, which (as much as may be with the true setting forth of Christ’s Religion) is always to be eschewed.” [The quotations are from the Preface Concerning Ceremonies (1549).] The Anglican attitude to Tradition was well expressed by Bishop Francis White: [Bishop of Ely, 1631–1638.] “Genuine Traditions agreeable to the Rule of Faith, subservient to piety, consonant with Holy Scripture, derived from the Apostolical times by a successive current, and which have the uniform testimony of pious Antiquity, are received and honoured by us,” and he gives as examples of such traditions: “The historical tradition concerning the number, integrity, dignity, and perfection of the Books of Canonical Scriptures,* the Catholic exposition of many sentences of Holy Scripture, [Cf. Article XX (Wm. Payne’s Dictum).] the Holy Apostles’ Creed, the Baptism of Infants, the perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the religious observance of the Lord’s Day, and of some other Festivals, as Easter, Pentecost, etc., Baptizing and administration of the Holy Eucharist in public assemblies and congregations, the Service of the Church in a known language, the delivering of the Holy Communion to the people in both kinds, the superiority and authority of Bishops over Priests and Deacons in jurisdiction and power of Ordination, etc.” [A Treatise of the Sabbath Day (1635), p. 97f.] Other examples of tradition which we follow include the Observance of Lent, [Penitential Service: “Brethren, there hath been from ancient times a godly custom in the Church ...”] the use of the Sign of the Cross in Baptism, [“The sign of the Cross is by this Office appointed to be used in Baptism according to the ancient and laudable custom of the Church.” – Rubric following Baptism of Infants.] and the holding of ordinations at the Ember Seasons. [Irish Prayer Book, Canon 18: In accordance with the ancient custom of the Church, whereby certain times were allotted in which only Sacred Orders might be given or conferred ... only upon the Sundays immediately following ... Ember weeks.]
*It should be observed that the decision as to which Books should be in the Bible is a matter of Tradition. Dean Robinson points out that at gatherings for Christian Worship in the early Church some Christian writings were read as well as passages from the Old Testament. “At first there was no rule of limitation, apart from the judgement of the bishop of each church as to what tended to edification. But soon a tradition grew up in the greater churches as to what was and what was not of apostolic origin. Some books were not read in certain churches, though afterwards they were universally accepted; such were the Epistle to the Hebrews, which some assigned to St. Paul, while others did not; the Revelation of St. John; and the Second Epistle of St. Peter ... . By the end of the second century, nearly all the books of our present New Testament were accepted by the general consent of all the churches.” Excluded Books of the N. T., p. x.
While resisting the Roman Catholic demand for universal uniformity of Traditions and Ceremonies, the Article also strongly condemns those who go to the opposite extreme and claim the right of exercising their private judgement to decide whether traditions should be observed. Such individualists are condemned on the grounds that:
(a) They offend against the common order of the Church. The Article is supported by the Preface Concerning Ceremonies (1549) which emphasizes that “the willful and contemptuous transgression and breaking of a common order and discipline is no small offence before God. ‘Let all things be done among you’, saith St. Paul, ‘in a seemly and due order;’ The appointment of the which order pertaineth not to private men; therefore no man ought to take in hand, nor presume to appoint or alter any public or common* order in Christ’s Church, except he be lawfully called and authorized thereunto.”
*The word “common” does not mean “vulgar”, but “common to all”, as in “Common Prayer”. The Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church are part of the heritage of the whole Church, accepted by the representatives of the whole Church in a Synod or Convocation, and therefore no individual man has any right to alter or depart from them to satisfy his personal whims or fancy.
(b) They offend against authority. [The Article mentions the Magistrate, because when it was drawn up the ordinances of Religion were enforced by the State.] Every Clerk in Holy Orders who signs the Declaration of Assent is a man “under authority” [Cf. Declaration of Assent (Canon Law of C. of E., p. 215).], and is not free to do or to teach whatever he pleases. “Acting under the order of lawful authority is the antithesis of acting according to one’s own caprice or fancy. It excludes eccentricity, unrestraint, indiscipline, idiosyncrasy. It implies control, submission, regularity, orderliness.” [The Hon. Mr. Justice Vaisey, in Canon Law of the C. of E. (1947) p. 221, and Heb. 13:7.] Since laymen, in most cases, share in making the laws governing Traditions, Rites, and Ceremonies, they are also under a moral, if not a legal, obligation to observe such laws. [E.g., in the Church of Ireland, such laws are made by the General Synod, comprising representatives of the laity of the Church, as well as representatives of the Clergy.]
(c) They wound “the consciences of the weaker brethren,” for they may by their bad example weaken the scruples of others. St. Paul regarded such conduct as a serious sin, declaring “When ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” [1 Cor. 8:12.]
Article XXXV: Of Homilies
[The corresponding Article of 1553 ran: “The Homilies of late given, and set out by the king’s authority, be godly and wholesome, containing doctrine to be received of all men: and therefore are to be read to the people diligently, distinctly, and plainly.” The reference was, of course, to the First Book of Homilies. The present Article on this subject first appeared in its present form in 1571.
The American Church has the following note to this Article: “This Article is received in this Church so far as it declares the Books of the Homilies to be an explication of Christian doctrine and instructive in piety and morals. But all references to the constitution and laws of England are considered as inapplicable to the circumstances of this Church; which also suspends the order for the reading of the said Homilies in churches until a revision of them may be conveniently made for the clearing of them, as well from obsolete words and phrases as from the local references.”]
The second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof 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.
11 Of Alms-doing.
2 Against peril of Idolatry.
12 Of the Nativity of Christ.
3 Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
13 Of the Passion of Christ.
4 Of good Works, first of Fasting.
14 Of the Resurrection of Christ.
5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
6 Against Excess of Apparel.
16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
7 Of Prayer.
17 For the Rogation Days.
8 Of the place and time of Prayer.
18 Of the state of Matrimony.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
19 Of Repentance.
10 Of the reverend estimation of God’s Word.
20 Against Idleness.
21 Against Rebellion.
At the time of the Reformation, preaching was obviously important if the reformed doctrines were to be taught. But, unfortunately, many of the clergy were not highly educated, and some were incapable of writing sermons. It was decided, therefore, that Homilies or discourses [The word is derived from the Greek homilia, which means “social intercourse” or “familiar discourse.” The noun occurs in 1 Cor. 15:33 in the first sense “evil company doth corrupt good manners” (R.V.), and the verb occurs in Lk. 24:14; Acts 20:11, 24:26.] should be issued for reading in the churches. The First Book of Homilies was presented to Convocation in 1543, [The records of Convocation for 16th February, 1543 state: “there were produced the Homilies composed by certain prelates of divers matters: they were delivered to Mr. Hussey to be kept” – cited in J. T. Tomlinson, The Prayer Book, Articles, and Homilies (1897) p. 230.] but apparently King Henry refused to authorise their publication, [Tomlinson, Op. cit., p. 230.] and they did not appear until 1547. In the 1549 Prayer Book, the rubric following the Nicene Creed in the Holy Communion Service directed: “After the Crede ended, shall folowe the Sermon or Homely, or some porcion of one of the Homelies.” The Second Book of Homilies was prepared between 1561–62 and was issued by Convocation in January 1563 (with the exception of the Homily “Against Rebellion” which was added in 1571, following a rising in the North of England in 1569). It consisted of twenty-one sermons, mainly the work of the learned apologist of the English Reformation, John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury. The need for the Homilies arose not only because of the inability of many of the clergy to write sermons, but also because disaffection and license were rampant among them, and just when the people required careful direction and instruction, only uncertain effusions came from many pulpits. The confusion became so great that preaching had to be controlled, and was frequently prohibited except by special permission; we hear at one time of eight thousand parishes without preaching ministers.
The remedy for this state of affairs was to provide the clergy with sermons composed by scholarly divines, and relevant to the religious, social and political questions of the day, which were to be “read in churches ... diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people”. This reading of non-canonical writings in the congregation goes far back into history; St. Jerome in the 4th century witnesses to a similar use of the Epistles of Hermas, Clement of Rome and Polycarp. And later still, in A.D. 813, the Council of Rheims acknowledged the incompetence of many bishops to compose sermons, and authorized the translation for preaching of discourses of the Fathers.
The Homilies are never read in Public Worship nowadays, though the 1662 and 1928 Prayer Books retain the reference to Homilies in the rubric following the Nicene Creed. The Irish Prayer Book omits this reference, but in The Ordering of Deacons the Bishop says: “It appertaineth to the Office of a Deacon ... to read Holy Scripture and Homilies in the Church, ... and to preach, if he be admitted thereto by the Bishop”. Whereas a Priest has authority to preach by virtue of his Office; a Deacon may only preach if the Bishop gives him a license to do so. It has been pointed out that “Occasionally Bishops have ordered the reading of printed sermons by Deacons; many do so in the case of lay readers”. [Lowther Clarke, The Prayer Book of 1928 Reconsidered, p. 38.] Hence, although the Homilies in the Article are not now read, the principle of reading homilies has not been entirely abandoned.
Chapter VIII – The Ministry Of The Church
Article XXIII: Of Ministering In The Congregation
[Derived partly from the 10th of the Thirteen Articles of 1538 (which attempted to find a compromise between Anglicans and Lutherans), and partly from the Confession of Augsburg. This accounts for its vagueness.]
It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick 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 publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
Article XXXVI: Of Consecration Of Bishops And Ministers
[This Article dates from 1563 and was drawn up to vindicate our Ordinal against (i) Roman Catholics who denied the validity of our Orders, and (ii) Puritans, who objected to the words “Receive the Holy Ghost,” and regarded parts of the Ordinal as “superstitious or ungodly.”]
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 any thing, that of itself is superstitious or ungodly. And therefore, whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the second year of the aforenamed 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.
These two Articles must be considered together in order to get a complete statement of our doctrine of the Ministry. In general, Article XXIII asserts the distinction between clergy and laity, and the necessity of being “lawfully called and sent,” against Anabaptists who held that only the inward call of God is necessary. While Article XXXVI refers to the form of the Ministry, and the requirements for valid ordinations and consecrations as set forth in the Ordinal.
Even a cursory reading of the New Testament indicates the very significant difference between the Apostles and other members of the Church. During His Ministry our Lord had given them authority to preach and to heal. [Mark 3:14f.] But after His Resurrection He gave them a special commission and authorization to do His work [John 20:21.], and before His Ascension promised to endow them for the work with power from on high. [Acts 1:4, 5.] Their dominant position is indicated in the fact that the history of the early Church is entitled “The Acts of the Apostles.” They exercised supreme authority in the administration of discipline, [Acts 5:1–10; 1 Cor. 5:1–5; 2 Thess. 3:6.] safeguarding the Faith against false teachers, [1 Tim. 1:19f.; cf. 2: Tim. 2:17f.; 2 John 11.] supervising Church finances, [Acts 4:32–37.] and ordaining by the laying on of hands. [Acts 6:5f.] “The Church exists by Divine authority, and authority in the Church was committed to the Apostles, who were divinely designated as its organs, to exercise it in a permanent stewardship of grace and truth. Thus, not only was a Society established; it received the beginnings of a structure. The Church grew up round its Apostolic Ministry. There is a given-ness both in its faith and in its form. There was always a cleros and there was always a laos. They stood side by side from the beginning. There was no question of a laos spinning a cleros out of its own vitals. The cleros was as fixed and fundamental a feature in the Society as the eye is in the physical body.” [Archbp. J. A. F. Gregg, Reunion, p. 3f.]
Article XXIII denies the right of any man to preach or administer the Sacraments “before he be lawfully called and sent.” The inward call of God to serve in the sacred Ministry is essential, as the Ordinal recognizes [Cf. first question in each Office in the Ordinal.]; but it is not sufficient in itself. If the individual were the sole judge of his call, the Church would be at the mercy of every man who felt so called, whatever his doctrinal views might be. The New Testament makes it quite clear that in this, as in other matters, the character and views of the individual must be tested and confirmed by the Church. The Epistles to Timothy and to Titus, for instance, emphasize that no man is to be accepted for the Ministry, unless he satisfies certain requirements, and great importance is attached to sound doctrine. [Note the qualifications required in 1 Tim. 2:1–10; Titus 1:5–9; cf. 1 John 4:1–3.] The idea that anyone may perform ministerial functions without being ordained is clearly at variance with New Testament teaching and practice.
Article XXXVI endorses the Ordinal, and the threefold ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons therein set forth. The Ministry developed with the growth and expansion of the Church. But it is important to notice that the initiative was taken by the Apostles. On their direction, [Acts 6:3.] the people chose seven men whom they brought before the Apostles to be ordained by the laying on of hands. [Acts 6:6.] Likewise, with the evangelization of new areas, the Apostles appointed Presbyters, [Acts 14:23; 15:2 ; 20:28; Phil. 1:1; Jas. 5:14; 1 Pet. 5:1.] to whom they delegated the pastoral oversight [Acts 20:28. Thus Presbyters were sometimes called “bishops” (Acts 20:17, 28) or “overseers.” But they were not Bishops in the strict sense of the term, and are therefore usually called “presbyter-bishops”.] of the local branches of the Church. But the “Presbyters, like the Deacons, were subject to Apostolic authority and supervision, [Phil. 1:1; 2:19, 24, etc.] and there is no evidence that they had power or authority to ordain others. [If they possessed such authority it would have been unnecessary to send Timothy to Ephesus and Titus to Crete with specific authority to ordain, Tit. 1.5. (The list of qualifications of a presbyter-bishop given in 1 Tim. 3:1–7 is superfluous if Timothy was not intended to select and ordain suitable men. Cf. Hooker, Op. cit. VII, vi.3–5).] The Ministry in the earliest period was thus a three-fold one of Apostles, Presbyters, and Deacons. The Apostles may not have been localized as Bishops now are, but they exercised the functions now peculiar to Bishops, and the lower Orders were appointed by them and functioned with their consent and authority. Timothy and Titus, though not Apostles, were obviously superior to Presbyters, for they had authority to ordain Presbyters [1 Tim. 3:l–13; 5:22; Tit. 1:5.] and to rule over them. [1 Tim. 5:17–22; Tit. 1:5–13.] They thus performed the most important functions formerly exercised only by Apostles and subsequently by Bishops. They are therefore sometimes designated “Bishops”, [Dr. Lightfoot calls them “iternant bishops” (Clem. of Rome, ii. p. 433) and describes them as exercising a “moveable episcopate” (Ignat. i. p. 377).] and are represented as deriving their authority from an Apostle. [1 Tim. 1:3, 18f.; Tit. 1:5.] St. James, the Lord’s brother, was obviously leader of the Church in Jerusalem, [Acts 12:17; 21:18.] and “as early as the middle of the second century all parties concur in representing him as a Bishop in the strict sense of the term.” [Bishop Lightfoot, Dissertations, p. 168.] St. Paul gave him precedence over Cephas (Peter) and John. [Gal. 2:9.] He presided at the Council of Jerusalem and gave his personal judgement at the conclusion of it. [Acts 15:19.] He was succeeded as Bishop of Jerusalem by Symeon, [Hegesipp. in Euseb. H.E., iv. 22.] a complete list of whose successors is preserved by Eusebius. [H.E., iv. 5.] Irenaeus (b. 130 A.D.) declared “We can enumerate those who were appointed as Bishops in the Churches by the Apostles and their successors to our own day”, [Adv. Haer. III. 3. 1.] and he instances Polycarp as having been “appointed by the Apostles for Asia as Bishop in the Church at Smyrna.” [Adv. Haer. III. 3. 1; 3. 4.] Ignatius, writing c. 110 A.D., bears the clearest testimony to the threefold Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. [Trallians iii; Mag. xiii – your revered bishop and with your presbytery, ... and with the godly deacons.”] The evidence (only a fraction of which has been given) thus justifies the statement in the Ordinal that “From the Apostles’ times there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” The Ordinal makes it clear that those “who have public authority ... to call and send Ministers” are the Bishops.
Article XXXVI asserts that all those who have been consecrated or ordained according to the Rites in our Ordinal are “rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.” The Roman Church alleges that our clergy are not validly ordained and therefore not really Bishops, Priests and Deacons of the Holy Catholic Church. The point was illustrated a few years ago in a correspondence in the London “Times”, in the course of which the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood declared that from the Roman point of view, the Anglican Bishop of Winchester is a layman. [The correspondence was published in booklet form entitled Catholicism To-day (1949).] He would, of course, say the same of all non-Roman clergy.
For an ordination or consecration to be valid, four requirements must be satisfied. There must be (1) the proper minister, (2) the proper form, (3) the proper matter, and (4) the proper intention. These four tests must therefore be applied to our Ordinal.
(1) A valid ordination or consecration can only be performed by a Bishop who has himself been validly ordained Priest and consecrated Bishop. It is important to remember that during Queen Mary’s. reign (1553–58) the reforming process was halted for a time and an attempt was made to bring back Roman doctrines and the supremacy of the Pope. Roman Catholic writers acknowledge, for instance, that the men who were Bishops in Ireland in Queen Mary’s reign were “true Bishops of the Church in Ireland.” [H. Jackson Lawlor, The Reformation and the Irish Episcopate (1932), p. 18.] Dr. Lawlor has shown that “In each diocese of Ireland the Marian bishops were the true Bishops of the Church of Ireland, and they were in every case followed by a regular line of lawful successors, the last in each series being the occupant of the see at present recognized by the Irish Church. The rival lines of Roman titulars have no valid claim to be the successors in the several sees of the pre-Reformation bishops. [H. Jackson Lawlor, The Reformation and she Irish Episcopate (1932), p. 18:] Hence the Irish clergy ordained since the Reformation must be regarded as having been ordained by proper ministers. The same is true of the clergy of the Church of England.
(2) The proper form refers to the use of the correct words. Roman Catholics argue that the “form” in our ordinations and consecrations was insufficient, on the ground that from 1550–1661 the words accompanying the Imposition of Hands did not mention the particular order, whether Bishop, Priest or Deacon, which was being conferred. We reply (a) Our 1550 and 1552 ordination Services make it quite clear which Order was being conferred. (b) Neither the Roman Pontifical nor the earliest known Eastern ordination rite, that of Bishop Sarapion (c. 340 A.D.), mention the Order at the laying on of hands. Yet the Roman Church does not suggest that either is defective in form. (c) During Queen Mary’s reign, when the English Church was reconciled to the Pope, no attempt was made to re-ordain all those who had been ordained according to the 1550 and 1552 rites. They were permitted to continue exercising their ministry in full communion with Rome and with the full knowledge of the Pope. If Rome considered in 1553 that their ordinations were valid, how can they now be deemed invalid?
(3) By the proper matter in an ordination is meant the performance of the correct action. In the pre-Reformation ordination rites the Bishop presented the candidates with instruments symbolical of their office. For instance, a Subdeacon received an empty chalice and an empty paten, a Priest received a chalice with wine and a paten with bread. This “delivery of the instruments” came to be regarded in the 13th century as the “matter” of ordination and the accompanying words as the “form”. Because this ceremonial delivery of the instruments is omitted from our Prayer Book ordination services, Roman Catholics used to allege that our ordinations were therefore invalid. But in the 17th century a Roman Catholic scholar, Morinus, proved conclusively that the ceremony had not existed during the first 1,000 years of the Church’s life. If it is essential for a valid ordination, the Church possessed no valid Orders for a thousand years! There is no reason to doubt that the laying on of the Bishop’s hands, with prayer for the Holy Spirit, is sufficient “matter” to constitute a valid ordination.
(4) Lastly, Pope Leo XIII in 1896 declared that our Orders are invalid because our ordination rites lack a proper intention to make Priests in the sense that the Church has always given to the word “Priest”. But the Preface to the Ordinal, after stating ... from the Apostles’ time there hath been these orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons: ...” goes on to say, “To the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed, in the Church” the prescribed Form of Service must be used at all ordinations. This Preface makes clear our intention to make Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the sense that these titles have borne since the Apostles’ time.
If, as some Roman Catholics claim, mention of the Priest’s power of offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice is necessary to make an ordination valid, then not only are our own clergy invalidly ordained, but so also are an innumerable host of Roman priests. For (unfortunately for the Roman argument) the earliest Roman ordination rite of which we have knowledge, in the “Apostolic Tradition” of Hippolytus of Rome (c. 215 A.D.), contains no mention whatever of the power of offering sacrifice.
Hence we find that these Roman arguments used against the validity of our Orders can be met at every point, and shown to be without substance. The fact that Roman theologians have had to change their arguments so often indicates the weakness of their case.
The Articles, apart from asserting that the Ordinal contains “nothing superstitious or ungodly” [The Puritans disliked the formula “Receive the Holy Ghost” in the Ordinal, but it is justified by John 20:22.], make no explicit statement concerning the Anglican attitude towards non-episcopal ministries. In view, however, of current discussions about Church Unity, the inclusion in this chapter of some Anglican statements on the subject of the Ministry of the Church may be deemed relevant and desirable. Much has been written about the Ministry in recent years by scholars of different ecclesiastical traditions, but for Anglicans the statements made by the Lambeth Conferences are more authoritative than the views of individual scholars however eminent.
The 1948 Lambeth Conference emphasized the importance of safeguarding “the integral connection between the Church and the ministry”, and this relationship was admirably maintained by the Church Unity Committee of the 1958 Conference in the following statement (which was endorsed by the whole Conference – Resolution 13):
“We believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which takes its origin not in the will of man but in the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. All those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity are incorporated into the Body of Christ and are members of the Church. Here is a unity already given.
“We believe that the mission of the Church is nothing less than the remaking and gathering together of the whole human race by incorporation into Christ. In obedience to this mission we must continually pray and work for the visible unity of all Christian believers of all races and nations in a living Christian fellowship of faith and sacrament, of love and prayer, witness and service.
“The recovery and manifestation of unity, which we seek, is the unity of the whole Church of Christ. This means unity in living Christian fellowship, in obedience to Christ in every department of human life, and plain for all men to see. There can be no limit to the range of such unity. We are working for unity with the non-episcopal Churches in our own countries and elsewhere. We continue to seek for such complete harmony of spirit and agreement in doctrine as would bring unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church and other ancient Churches. We must hope and pray for such eventual agreement in faith and order as shall lead to the healing of the breach between ourselves and the Church of Rome.
“We therefore recall the words of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 as follows:
“We believe that the visible unity of the Church will be found to involve the whole-hearted acceptance of:
“The Holy Scriptures, as the record of God’s revelation of himself to man, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith; and the Creed commonly called Nicene, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith, and either it or the Apostles’ Creed as the Baptismal confession of belief;
“The divinely instituted sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion as expressing for all the corporate life of the whole fellowship in and with Christ;
“A ministry acknowledged by every part of the Church as possessing not only the inward call of the Spirit, but also the commission of Christ and the authority of the whole body.
“Loyalty to the age-long tradition of the Church, and to our own experience, compels us to believe that a ministry to be acknowledged by every part of the Church can only be attained through the historic episcopate, though not necessarily in the precise form prevailing in any part of the Anglican Communion. This ministry we believe to have been given to the Church by Divine Providence from primitive Christian times with its traditional functions of pastoral care and oversight, ordination, leadership in worship, and teaching. We fully recognize that there are other forms of ministry than episcopacy in which have been revealed the gracious activity of God in the life of the universal Church. We believe that other Churches have often borne more effective witness, for example, to the status and vocation of the laity as spiritual persons and to the fellowship and discipline of congregational life than has been done in some of the Churches of our communion. It is our longing that all the spiritual gifts and insights by which the particular Churches live to his glory may find their full scope and enrichment in a united Church.
“The unity between Christian Churches ought to be a living unity in the love of Christ which is shown in full Christian fellowship and in mutual service, while also, subject to sufficient agreement in faith and order, expressing itself in free interchange of ministries and fullness of sacramental Communion. Such unity, while marked by the bond of the historic episcopate, should always include congregational fellowship, active participation both of clergy and laity in the mission and government of the Church, and zeal for evangelism.”
The emphasis in the above statement on “the historic episcopate”, and “agreement in faith and order” as a condition of “free interchange of ministries, and fullness of sacramental Communion”, recalls the fuller statement on these matters which was made by the 1930 Lambeth Conference. In fact, the principles so succinctly stated in 1958 can only be appreciated and justified by studying the carefully-worded explanation of the Anglican attitude given in 1930, as follows:
“The problem confronting those who work for the restoration of union is primarily one of Faith and Order. Appreciation of spiritual devotion affords grounds for desiring reunion, but agreement upon Faith and Order is the essential matter, in the sense that to secure a common Faith and Order is in itself to accomplish reunion. Previous Lambeth Conferences have approved, as the Anglican basis for negotiations with a view to reunion, the four points sometimes referred to as the Lambeth Quadrilateral; the Scriptures; the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds; the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; and the Historic Episcopate. [The difference between 1958 and 1930 in the use of capital letters is characteristic of changing fashions, and not necessarily of any theological significance.]
“Of these the last appeared in the Lambeth Appeal (1920) as the one means of providing the ‘ministry acknowledged by every part of the Church’ which is, in the Appeal, the fourth point declared to be involved in the visible unity of the Church.
“Among the Churches with which we have held Conference, we find that in the Episcopal Churches these four points are all secured; in the Non-Episcopal Churches we find that as regards three of the four points there is such a measure of agreement as to form a hopeful basis of further negotiation; these are the Canon of Scripture, the Faith as set forth and safeguarded by the Creeds, and the use of the two Sacraments of the Gospel. The outstanding point is the Historic Episcopate, and on this we desire to offer some further explication.
“When we speak of the Historic Episcopate, we mean the Episcopate as it emerged in the clear light of history from the time when definite evidence begins to be available. It is, indeed, well known that the origin of episcopacy has been much debated. Without entering into the discussion of theories which divide scholars, we may affirm shortly that we see no reason to doubt the statement made in the Preface to our Ordinal that ‘from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.’ Whatever variety of system may have existed in addition in the earlier age, it is universally agreed that by the end of the 2nd century episcopacy had no effective rival. Among all the controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries the episcopal ministry was never a subject of debate. We may therefore reasonably claim that it is ‘Historic’ in a sense in which no other now can ever be. The Episcopate occupies a position which is, in point of historic development, analogous to that of the Canon of Scripture and of the Creeds. In the first days there was no Canon of New Testament Scripture, for the books afterwards included in it were still being written. For a time different Churches had different writings which they regarded as authoritative. The Canon was slowly formed, and the acceptance of a single Canon throughout the Church took several generations. So, too, the Apostles’ Creed is the result of a process of growth which we can in large measure trace. If the Episcopate, as we find it established universally by the end of the 2nd century, was the result of a like process of adaptation and growth in the organism of the Church, that would be no evidence that it lacked divine authority, but rather that the life of the Spirit within the Church had found it to be the most appropriate organ for the functions which it discharged.
“In the course of time the Episcopate was greatly affected by secular forces, which bent it to many purposes alien to its true character, and went far to obscure its spiritual purpose. It is hard to recognize the successors of the Apostles in the feudal Prelates of the mediaeval Church, or in the ‘peers spiritual’ of eighteenth century England. Moreover, the essential character of the Episcopate was distorted by the development of the Papal Supremacy. Such deviations from its true principle are mainly responsible for the general abandonment of Episcopacy by the Protestant Churches. The Historic Episcopate as we understand it goes behind the perversions of history to the original conception of the Apostolic Ministry.
“For it is not a mere fact, but an institution fulfilling certain purposes. As an institution it was, and is, characterized by succession in two forms: the succession in office and the succession of consecration. And it had generally recognized functions: the general superintendence of the Church and more especially of the Clergy; the maintenance of unity in the one Eucharist; the ordination of men to the ministry; the safeguarding of the faith; and the administration of the discipline of the Church. There have been different interpretations of the relations of these elements in the Historic Episcopate to one another; but the elements themselves are constant. When, therefore, we say that we must insist on the Historic Episcopate but not upon any theory or interpretation of it, we are not to be understood as insisting on the office apart from the functions. What we uphold is the Episcopate, maintained in successive generations by continuity of succession and consecration, as it has been throughout the history of the Church from the earliest times, and discharging those functions which from the earliest times it has discharged.
“We readily agree that there are other elements in the full life of the Church, and we hold that the episcopate should be ‘constitutional’ in the sense that provision should be made for the due cooperation of the presbyterate and the congregation of Christ’s faithful people in the ordering of the Church’s life. Indeed, this is already secured in varying degrees in all parts of the Anglican Communion by the revival of Diocesan and Provincial Synods, or by other similar means. We recognize that in this respect we have much to learn and to gain from the traditions and customs of the non-episcopal Churches. But our special responsibility as an Episcopal Church is to bring into the complete life of the united Church those elements which we have received and hold in trust. Chief among these, in the matter of Order, is the Historic Episcopate.
“In laying this emphasis on our own inheritance, we emphatically declare that we do not call in question the spiritual reality of the ministries now exercised in non-episcopal communions. On the contrary, we reiterate the declaration of the Lambeth Conference of 1920, that ‘these ministries have been manifestly blessed and owned by the Holy Spirit as effective means of grace’. But when we consider the problem which must be paramount in all our discussions, namely, the restoration of the broken unity of Christ’s Body and the drawing together of the separated groups of His followers, we realize that one necessary element in that visible fellowship must be a ministry universally acknowledged. Thus considered, there is at present no ministry which fully corresponds with the purpose of God. Yet we are persuaded that the historic continuity of the episcopal ministry provides evidence of the Divine intention in this respect such as to constitute a stewardship which we are bound to discharge.
“We cannot regard the maintenance of separately organized churches as a matter indifferent or unimportant. The will and intention to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the Body of Christ must of necessity underlie all its organisation; and where that unity has been broken, the earnest desire to restore union makes possible a recognition by the Church, in some respects, of ministries which, in separation, must stand on a different footing. The will and intention of Christians to perpetuate separately organized Churches makes it inconsistent in principle for them to come before our Lord to be united as one body by the sacrament of His own Body and Blood. The general rule of our Church must therefore be held to exclude indiscriminate Inter-communion, or any such Inter-communion as expresses acquiescence in the continuance of separately organized Churches.
“From what has been already said it will be evident why we hold as a general principle that Inter-communion should be the goal of, rather than a means to, the restoration of union, and also why the general rule of our Church has been, as set forth by the 1920 Lambeth Conference, that members of the Anglican Churches should receive the Holy Communion only from ministers of their own Church or of Churches in full communion with it.
“But we recognize that the rule quoted above is a rule of discipline, and as such is subject to exception where the purpose of that discipline can thus be better served. We hold that the administration of such a rule of the Church falls under the discretion of the Bishop, who should exercise his dispensing power in accordance with any principles that may be set forth by the national, regional, or provincial authority of the Church in the area concerned. Nor (we hope) will the Bishops of the Anglican Communion question the action of any Bishop who may in his discretion so exercised sanction an exception to the general rule in special areas where the ministrations of his own Church are not available for long periods of time or without travelling great distances, or may give permission that baptized communicant members of Churches not in communion with our own, should be encouraged to communicate in Anglican Churches when the ministrations of their own Church are not available, or in other special and temporary circumstances. We would repeat the declaration of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 that ‘in cases in which it is impossible for the Bishop’s judgement to be obtained beforehand, the priest should remember that he has no canonical authority to refuse Communion to any baptized person kneeling before the Lord’s Table unless he be excommunicate by name, or, in the canonical sense of the term, a cause of scandal to the faithful’.” [Report of Lambeth Conference 1930, pp. 114–117.]
Chapter IX – The Sacraments
Article XXV: Of The Sacraments
[The first paragraph of the present Article is taken from Article IX of the Thirteen Articles of 1538, which in turn was based on Article XIII of the Augsburg Confession.]
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 St. Paul saith.
*The word “sacramentum” is the Latin equivalent of the Creek word musterion, which originally meant a secret, e.g., State secrets. Hence it came to mean religious secrets known only to the initiated, and eventually to denote religious rites commended in the New Testament (Ephes. 5:32). Cf. also A. W. Robinson, The Church Catechism Explained (1913), p. 137.
The Article illustrates the Anglican “via media” between the extreme Protestant view (characteristic among Continental Reformers at the time of the Reformation and still current amongst their spiritual descendants today) which depreciates the value of Sacraments, and the Roman Catholic view which makes them independent of the spiritual attitude of the worshipper.
The description of a Sacrament rests on what is called the sacramental principle; that is, the truth that things in physical Nature can symbolize and communicate spiritual reality. More will be said on this point, and about the Sacraments as “effectual signs of grace” when we consider Articles XXVII and XXVIII, on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The elements in the Sacraments, water in Holy Baptism, and bread and wine in Holy Communion, are not just “badges or tokens” [Anabaptists and Zwinglians said Baptism was only a badge which distinguished Christians from non-Christians.] of the Christian profession, like circumcision in Judaism; they are “effectual signs of grace”, whereby God’s presence and power are conveyed to the soul.
What the Article says about the nature of a Sacrament has to be taken in connection with the general teaching of the Prayer Book on the subject, and especially of the Catechism, which defines a Sacrament as “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.” It is clear from the Latin version of the Catechism that “given” refers to “spiritual grace”, and not to “sign”; the sign is ordained by Christ, and the grace is imparted through it. The Article also describes them as the means through which God “doth work invisibly in us”, to “quicken’ (Latin, excitat, stir up) us, and to “strengthen and confirm our faith in Him”. The opening statement of the Article was aimed at the opinion of the Swiss Reformer, Zwingli, who taught that the Sacraments were but the marks of discipleship, and reminders of the method of our redemption; grace, he said, was not received through them.
The Council of Trent, like the Council of Florence, [1439. Peter Lombard (died 1164) was the first to mention the number as seven.] recognized seven Sacraments. The Article distinguishes between the two Sacraments “ordained” by Christ, “Baptism and the Supper of the Lord”, which it calls “Sacraments of the Gospel”; and “those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction”. The Catechism recognizes only the two Sacraments of the Gospel as “generally necessary to salvation”. [“Generally” in the Bible and Prayer Book means “universally” (Cp. A.V. and R.V. of 2 Sam. 17:11; Jer. 48:38. The “General” Confession is to be said by everyone. Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are necessary for everyone – Jn. 3:5; 4:1; 6:53. Cf. W. G. Wilson, Church Teaching, p. 63f.]
Concerning “those five”, it would seem that “commonly called” does not in the Prayer Book mean “wrongly called”,* and therefore those five “commonly called Sacraments” may rightly be termed Sacraments. But they are not Sacraments of the same “nature” as the two Sacraments of the Gospel, mainly because (i) “they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God,” and partly because (ii) they are either only “states of life allowed in the Scripture,” or (iii) have developed out of “the corrupt following of the Apostles.” Each of the five may be considered under these three points of distinction: –
*E.g., “The Nativity of our Lord ... commonly called Christmas Day”; “The Fifth Sunday after Easter, commonly called Rogation Sunday”; “The First Day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday”; “The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin,” etc. If it means “wrongly called”, it is hard to understand why the Prayer Book contains such alternative titles.
(1) Confirmation illustrates how loosely worded is the Article. It is certainly not a “state of life,” nor can it be said to have developed from “the corrupt following of the Apostles.” It is evident that the “Laying on of Hands” was practiced by the Apostles as the means of conferring spiritual gifts. [Acts 8:17f.; 19:1–6; Heb. 6:2; cf. 2: Tim. 1:6 (R.V.).] Our Lord also practiced Laying on of Hands as a means of healing the sick [Mark 8:23 (R.V.).] and blessing. [Mk. 10:16; cf. also Num. 27:18; Deut. 34:9.] Much has been written in recent years on this subject, and “the imposition of hands in Acts and Hebrews calls for further study.” [G. W. H. Lampe, Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. VI, Pt. i, April 1955, p. 115.] Recent attempts to explain away the traditional interpretation of Acts 8:4–19; 19:l–7; and Heb. 6:1 f., which sees in these passages the apostolic precedents for confirmation are not entirely convincing, and “the alternative interpretations advanced by modern writers leave many anomalies and questions unanswered.” [W. G. Wilson, The Church Quarterly Review, Vol. CLVII, Jan.–Mar., 1957, p. 35. The Article is reprinted in Appendix B below.] The vagueness of the Article on this subject may be contrasted with Jeremy Taylor’s comment on Heb. 6:1f – “Here are six fundamental points of St. Paul’s catechism, which he laid as the foundations or the beginning of the institution of the Christian Church; and amongst these imposition of hands is reckoned as part of the foundation, and therefore they who deny it dig up foundations.” After showing that the passage refers to confirmation, he concludes by saying “He calls it ‘the doctrine of baptisms and laying on of hands’ ... hence it appears to be of Divine institution. For if it were not, St. Paul had been guilty of that which our blessed Saviour reproves in the Scribes and Pharisees, and should have ‘taught for doctrines the commandments of men.’ Which, because it cannot be supposed, it must follow that this doctrine of confirmation or imposition of hands is apostolical and Divine.” [Jeremy Taylor, Discourse on Confirmation, in Heber’s Works, Vol. XI, p. 249ff. The argument is not weakened by the fact that modern scholars may not agree that St. Paul is the author of Hebrews.] This argument is worthy of note, even though the status of Confirmation is still a matter of debate.
(2) Penance. In the Primitive Church, baptized members who committed grievous sins were required to make public confession before the Church, [Jas. 5:16.] and were not given absolution until the penalty assigned had been fulfilled. [Cf. F. E. Warren, Liturgy of the Celtic Church, p. 148f., and cp. Article XXXIII.] Such confession followed by absolution is known as Penance, but it lacks a visible sign or ceremony ordained of God, and cannot therefore be classed as a Sacrament of the Gospel, as defined in the Article.
(3) Orders, the rite by which men are admitted to the Ministry, has an outward sign – the laying on of hands, and an inward grace – the gift of the Spirit. [Acts 6:6 ; 13:3; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6. Cf. Chapter VIII above.] But we have no explicit evidence that the visible sign was instituted by our Lord.
(4) Matrimony is a state of life allowed (i.e., approved) in the Scriptures, but it also lacks a visible sign ordained by Christ.
(5) Extreme Unction is a rite that has developed out of “the corrupt following of the Apostles”. They anointed with oil for healing and forgiveness of sins, [Mark 6:13; St. James 5:14, 15; cf. 1 Cor. 12:9.] and this rite is still observed in the Eastern Church. In the Western Church, however, it ceased to be used for physical healing, and reappeared in the twelfth century as a sacramental rite used only for spiritual healing of persons at the point of death (Latin in extremis, hence the name Extreme Unction). But there is no evidence that our Lord instituted it, or that oil was intended to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”
The Article concludes by emphasizing the right use of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.* It condemns Corpus Christi processions and the like. [Cf. Article XXXIII. The Festival of Corpus Christi originated in the thirteenth century, in honour of the transubstantiation of the Elements.] “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about: but that we should duly use them.” In accord with the teaching of other Articles, it also stresses the need for human cooperation with the grace of God. Hence, “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 St. Paul saith.” The allusion is to 1 Cor. 11:29 which reads (R.V.): “He that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgement unto himself, if he discern not the Lord’s Body.” The Greek text shows that “judgement” (Gk. krima) here means temporal punishment sent by God to recall the careless to a sense of sin; it does not mean ‘eternal punishment.” **
*The plural “Sacraments were not ...” must refer to the two Elements in Holy Communion. Obviously the entire paragraph refers only to the one Sacrament, for Holy Baptism is never “carried about”, and the reference to unworthy reception linked with 1 Cor. 11:29 also refers only to Holy Communion. (Cp. “The holy Sacraments of His blessed Body and Blood,”– Second Exhortation in Communion Service, 1552 Prayer Book).
**J. K. Mozley expounds the text as meaning “A man should examine himself to see if his attitude towards the Supper justifies his coming to it. For it is not a common meal; it is one in which the Lord’s body is present to be discerned, that is, distinguished from ordinary food. If he does not so distinguish, then his eating and drinking involves the calling down of judgement upon himself ... the judgements are disciplinary ... they make for salvation, not for that condemnation to which the world, as alien from the Gospel, must at last be subjected.” (A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, S.P.C.K., p. 504.) Hence, “unworthily” really refers to the worth of the Sacrament, as much as to the worthiness of the individual; to eat and drink “unworthily” is to eat and drink without discerning the worth of the Lord’s Body. Such participation is “loss” (damnation).
Article XXVI: Of The Unworthiness Of The Ministers, Which Hinders Not
The Effect Of The Sacrament
[Derived from the Eighth Article of the Augsburg Confession, through the Thirteen Articles. The present title dates from 1571; in 1553 and 1563 it was “The Wickedness of the Ministers doth not take away the Effectual Operation of God’s Ordinances”.]
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 for as much 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 enquiry 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 judgement be deposed.
Nothing did more to prepare for the revolt of the Christian conscience against the ecclesiastical system on the eve of the Reformation than the reputation of the clergy, both regular and secular, for arrogance, avarice, immorality and worldliness. The people, who were entirely ignorant of the points discussed in scholastic philosophy, and had little interest in the theological issues of the Reformation controversy, knew about the widespread clerical degeneracy, and recognized its incompatibility with Christian conduct. This circumstance provides another example of how matters which led to heresy and schism in the early Church reappeared in the reaction against Romanism in the 16th century. The question at issue was: Does a Minister’s character influence the validity and effectiveness of his spiritual ministrations? Can the grace of Word and Sacrament be communicated to the people by a wicked Priest?
In the 4th century a dispute occurred over the appointment of one Caecilianus to the See of Carthage; his character was suspect and his consecrator, Felix of Aptunga, was accused of being a traditor. [One who during the terrible Diocletian persecution had obeyed the Imperial Order to hand over the sacred Christian books for destruction.] The chief objector to the appointment was Donatus who contended that if it was allowed, all the Church’s ordinances, including the Sacraments, would be invalid. The powerful opponent of the Donatists was St. Augustine who argued that their criticism rested on the doctrine of perfection; unless ordination conferred sinlessness there was no difference in this respect between the clergy and the laity; all share in the common sinfulness; it is only a question of degree: “It does not matter to the integrity of Baptism, how much worse he is who administers it. For there is not so much distinction between the bad and the worse, as between the good and the bad. And yet when a bad man baptizes, he gives nothing other than a good man does.” St. Chrysostom, a contemporary of St. Augustine, says much the same; he points out the injustice of thinking that those who receive in faith the symbols of our salvation should be injured on account of another’s wickedness. The great precursor of the English Reformation, Wycliffe (1324–1384), belonged to the rigorist tradition, and the Council of Constance (1415) which condemned his teaching, alleged against him the belief that “if a Bishop or Priest live in mortal sin, he ordaineth not, he baptizeth not, he consecrateth not”. Had he lived in Reformation times, Wycliffe would, on this point, have been on the side of the fanatical sects whose view is rejected in our Article. Many of the modern sects go even further than the Donatists; unless a Minister follows the rigorist tradition and also holds their particular narrow doctrine of salvation, they would deny the validity and effectiveness of any of his ministration of Word or Sacraments – even to the extent of rebaptizing those who have been baptized by an ordained Minister of the Church.
The Article declares that since the Ministry is of Christ’s institution, its members bear His Commission, act in His Name, and on His authority; so that the validity of their ministrations in Word and Sacraments rests on His appointment, and not on their character: “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.” This is the normal relation between executive and administrative authority in civil affairs also. If sacramental grace depended on the moral perfection of the priesthood, the fact of man’s universal sinfulness would make its ministration impossible. It is a typical mistake of religious extremists to concentrate on the ideal and adopt impracticable, unrealistic opinions; they are impatient with the present state of things and like the servants in the Parable of the Tares [Mtt. 13:24–30, 47ff.; 22:10.], want to remove the evil element immediately; they cannot wait in hope till “that which is perfect is come”. As we saw in Article XIX, the Apostolic writers of the New Testament cling to the paradox that the Church both is the Body of Christ and also consists of sinful and fallible members. Articles XII and XIV also emphasize that even man’s best efforts to do good are tainted with imperfection.
All the important Protestant Confessions as well as the Roman Church are in substantial agreement with the teaching of the Article, which has also the support of Scripture. In spite of their hypocrisy, Jesus allows that the Scribes and Pharisees are the accredited interpreters of the Law and commands obedience to their teaching. [Mtt. 23:2f.] It is not the preacher or instructor that counts, according to St. Paul, but God’s blessing on the word spoken [1 Cor. 3:5, 6.]; whether Christ is proclaimed out of envy and strife or sincerely and of goodwill, the important thing is that in either case He is proclaimed. [Phil. 1:15–18.]
The need of discipline for offending Ministers, referred to in the concluding part of the Article, is obvious. Clearly it is appropriate that God’s “Priests should be clothed with righteousness”. [Ps. 132:9.] Christian living has always been the Church’s strongest apologetic and appeal; the believer ought to be distinguishable by his conduct. Although the ordinances of Christ when administered by an unworthy Priest do not cease to be channels of grace to the faithful soul, still the Minister’s personal influence for good and his Christlike example go together. The Article therefore stresses that though the grace of God is independent of an evil ministry, yet the Church must exercise discipline to exclude evil Ministers. [1 Tim. 5:20, 22 (R.V.).] It was originally directed against the Anabaptists who refused to come to Holy Communion if they considered the Minister* was living in sin. Scholars differ as to whether the Article was directed also against the Roman Catholic doctrine of Intention,** but it does effectively repudiate that doctrine too.
*Throughout the Article, and in its title, “Minister” is used as including the three Orders. A Deacon may minister Holy Baptism, and the Celebrant at Holy Communion may be either a Priest or a Bishop (or Archbishop).
**The Council of Trent declared that the validity of the Sacraments depends on the Celebrant having the intention “of doing what the Church does”. But such a doctrine makes the Sacraments depend not only on the moral character of the Minister, but also on his caprice. We could never be sure whether he was ministering a true Sacrament or not.
Article XXVII: Of Baptism
[Composed by the English Reformers in 1552 to contradict the Anabaptists, Zwinglians, and others who regarded Baptism as a mere badge or token of admission into the Church. The Anabaptists also opposed Infant 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 the forgiveness of sins, 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.
Baptism is a subject which presents difficulties to many and has caused much controversy and discord amongst Christians. For the modern mind, where Baptism is not “only a sign of profession, and mark of difference”, but an effective means of grace, the problem is principally that of relating the form of the Sacrament to its results; the use of water seems to some people an inadequate “instrument” of spiritual regeneration or New Birth. But in order to see Baptism in its true perspective, it must be considered in relation to the Church into which we are “grafted” by it. God has in Christ entered into a new relationship with mankind; He has inaugurated a New Covenant, and the Church is the people of this New Covenant, or the New Israel. By sharing in this new relationship believers are “begotten again” [1 Pet. 1:3; Jn. 1:13.]; they are a new creation. [2 Cor. 5:17.] As the “instrument” of initiation into this new kind of existence, Baptism is the means whereby God performs a divine creative act; it is the “washing of regeneration” [Titus 3:5.]; and precisely for this reason the bearing of the form of the Sacrament on its effects is likely to elude our understanding.
There is an interesting analogy here between religion and science. We have already noticed that the distinctive Christian conception of God, the Trinity, is the interpretation of spiritual experience within the Church; similarly scientific theories and laws explain in mathematical terms man’s experience of the physical world. Taking a given set of conditions in the course of Nature, the scientist’s aim is to trace physical equivalence between it and the one which immediately follows. But when he is led to think of conditions outside the process itself, like the state of matter in space before the world-process began, he has reached a point beyond which scientific method cannot take him. If the question is put: how did this pre-cosmic existence come to be, and how did it give rise to the new condition of the world process, the physicist is not in a position to affirm or deny anything; he can only assume these things, he cannot explain them. It is religious faith which penetrates behind phenomena, and declares its assurance of the dependence of all things on the divine will: “God said, Let there be ... and it was so”; “He spake and it was done; he commanded and they were created”; “by faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God”. [Gen. 1; Ps. 33:9; Heb. 11:3.]
It should not be deemed utterly improbable, therefore, that the manner of our entrance into God’s new spiritual creation in Christ, the life of the Church, would equally baffle natural reason. Baptism has no rationale either of form or meaning; it is a pure origin, in face of which it can only be said: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”. [Ps. 118:23.] From the beginning Baptism had a universal observance, which only the Lord’s command could have secured for it; it was the indispensable form of admission to the Church. [Mtt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 22:16.]
The declaration in the Article that the Sacrament of Holy Baptism was “ordained” by our Lord has sometimes been challenged on the ground that the words in St. Matthew 28:19 represent a later tradition rather than the ipsissima verba of Jesus.* But at least the passage indicates that when the First Gospel was written (c. 85 A.D.), Christian Baptism was believed to have the full authority of Jesus behind it. That conviction is supported by several other considerations of importance: (i) If Jesus did riot institute this Sacrament, the very early practice of Baptism by the Apostles after the Day of Pentecost is inexplicable. [Acts 2:38.] It cannot be a mere continuation of John’s Baptism, for he did not baptize “in the name of John”, or associate the Spirit with Baptism. Furthermore, would the disciples continue a custom peculiar to John, without express instructions from our Lord? Nor were they merely continuing the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts (called proselyte-baptism). A Jew would have been insulted if he had been asked to submit to proselyte-baptism. Obviously the Jewish converts to Christianity did not equate Christian Baptism with proselyte-baptism, or they would not have accepted it so readily. [Acts 2:41.] (ii) In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4 St. Paul, referring to the Old Testament types of the two Sacraments, shows that he bracketed Holy Baptism and Holy Communion together as of equal status. He then proceeds to show that the significance of the latter is derived from its close connection with our Lord. [1 Cor. 10:16ff.] Would he have linked it so closely with Baptism if it was not also of our Lord? (iii) The significance of Baptism occupies an important place in the teaching of the Apostles, and they show a unity of thought on the subject [W. F. Flemington, Op. cit., p. 129.], which suggests a common authoritative source in the teaching of Jesus himself. The cumulative effect of all these considerations, supported by the references to Christian Baptism in the Gospels [Jn 3:5; 4:1f.; Mtt. 28:19.], can only adequately be explained by accepting the tradition that the Sacrament has, in fact, the authority of our Lord behind it.
*Some of the main arguments are (i) If St. Matt. 28:19 represents Christ’s words, why did the early Christians baptize “in the Name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16); and (ii) the words do not occur in the parallel passages in Mk. 16:15–18; Lk. 24:44–49; Jn. 20:21–23. But the argument from silence is always precarious. Is the Parable of the Prodigal Son to be rejected because it is only mentioned by St. Luke? For arguments against St. Matt. 28:19, cf. W. F. Flemington, The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism, pp. 105–109.
Each of the two Sacraments of the Gospel has “an outward and visible sign ... ordained by Christ” as a means whereby we receive an inward and spiritual grace, and in each the outward and visible sign is a pledge to assure us of the spiritual grace given in the Sacrament. [Catechism, questions on Sacraments.] In Holy Baptism, the outward visible sign or form is “Water: wherein the person is baptized In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. [Catechism, in loc.] The words used are as much a part of the sign as is the water. It is an “effectual sign” [Article XXV.] which not only distinguishes Christians from those who have not been christened, but is “also a sign of Regeneration or new Birth, [Tit. 3:5; Jn. 3:3, 5; Catechism: “a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness”.] whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly (i.e., correctly, in the prescribed manner*) are grafted into the Church”. The Church being the Body of Christ, [Ephes. 4:15f.; 1:22f.; Rom. 12:4f.; 1 Cor. 12:27, cf. Article XIX.] it follows that in Baptism we become “members of Christ”. [Catechism (Answer 2). 1 Cor. 12:27, Latin membrum, a limb.] The Sacrament also visibly “signs and seals” the “promises of forgiveness of sin [Acts 2:38; 22:16; Nicene Creed; First Prayer in Baptismal Office.], and of our adoption to be the sons of God. [Gal. 4:5f.; Rom. 8:15.] Originally having been “born in sin”, and therefore deserving of God’s wrath [Catechism (Ans. 5 on Sacraments), Cf. Article IX.], by Baptism we become “children of grace”. Hence the Church declares that “children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved”. [Rubric following Public Baptism of Infants.] The Catechism and Articles thus assert that Baptism both signifies and effects a cleansing from sin and a new birth or regeneration to spiritual life through incorporation into Christ.
*The Latin text is recte, which refers to the necessity of the right form being used – water in the name of the Trinity, the universally acknowledged requirements for a valid Sacrament of Holy Baptism. In Article XXV the word dignum (worthily) is used to describe the inward disposition required in the recipient of Holy Communion.
Since the Church is the visible, social organ of the regenerating action of Christ, those “grafted” into it by Baptism are reborn into a new order of existence; they have died to their sinful past,* have “put away ... the old man” [Eph. 4:22.], and “put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27.], so that now they belong to the heavenly commonwealth. [Phil. 3:20.] Corresponding to their participation in a new life, believers have conferred upon them a new status; they are no longer bondservants under law, but sons of God by the grace of adoption. [Gal. 4:5f.; 3:26f.; Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:5.] The break with former conditions and the fresh start imply the realization of the divine promise of forgiveness of sins, which has always been closely connected with Baptism. [Acts 2:38.] Moreover, the faith by which the promises of God are believed is confirmed when their fulfillment is experienced: “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the sons of God”. [Rom. 8:16.] And the grace also, whereby men accept the Gospel, is increased when they come to know the presence and power of “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” [Rom. 8:2.], that began at Baptism.
On the question of Infant Baptism the real issue is whether infants are capable of receiving spiritual blessing, and the decisive consideration is the words and example of Jesus. [Mk. 10:13–16.] In welcoming the children [Gk. brephoi (babes) in St. Luke. 18:15.] and laying His hands upon them, Jesus’ action was either an effective communication of His goodwill to them or an empty gesture. The Church’s interpretation of the incident is the natural one; infants are proper recipients of grace; He blessed them, and they received a blessing.
*The N.E.B. translation of Rom. 6 makes this very clear: “We died to sin: how can we live in it any longer? Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus we were baptized into His death? By baptism we were buried with Him, and lay dead, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendour of the Father, so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life.”
By admitting them to membership, the Church imparted to them the greatest blessing it had to bestow. Circumcision, the rite of initiation under the Old Covenant was administered when children were eight days old, and the custom could hardly have failed to influence the first Jewish Christians in their treatment of children under the New Covenant. Had infant Baptism not been practiced from the beginning because it was contrary to Christian teaching, then surely its introduction at a later date must have occasioned controversy; the silence of Church history on any such debate can only mean that children had always been baptized.
The Article declares that “The Baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ”. Despite strong Scriptural evidence in support of Infant Baptism [A full statement of the evidence is given by W. G. Wilson in Church Teaching, p. 70f.], however, the practice has been opposed by those who confuse “regeneration” with “conversion”. Regeneration means being “born again” and is an act of God is Baptism. [Jn 1:13; 3:3, 5; Jas. 1:18; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23.] Conversion is an act of man’s own will; every time we repent of a sin a fresh “turning” or act of the will should follow, by which we determine, by God’s grace, to amend our ways. Bishop Jeremy Taylor well expressed the necessity of baptizing Infants: “Besides the natural birth of infants, there must be something added, by which they must be reckoned in a new account; they must be born again, they must be reckoned in Christ, they must be adopted to the inheritance, and admitted to the promise, and entitled to the Spirit. Now that this is done ordinarily in baptism, is not to be denied: for therefore it is called ‘the font or laver of regeneration’; it is the gate of the Church, it is the solemnity of our admission to the covenant evangelical; and if infants cannot go to heaven by the first or natural birth, then they must go by a second and supernatural: and since there is no other solemnity or sacrament, no way of being born again, that we know of, but by the way of God’s appointing, and He hath appointed baptism, and all that are born again are born this way, even men of reason who have or can receive the Spirit, being to enter at the door of baptism – it follows that infants must also enter here, or we cannot say that they are entered at all” [The Liberty of Prophesying, in Heber’s Works, XVIII, Ad. 5., p. 400.]
Article XXVIII: Of The Lord’s Supper
[Drawn up by the English Reformers in 1552, but significantly revised in 1562 by adding “perverteth the nature of a Sacrament”, and by omitting the reference to the “real Presence” (see note from Bicknell below.). In 1571 “perverteth” was changed to “overthroweth”.]
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 it 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 substance of 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.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was riot by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
The aspect of the Lord’s Supper referred to in the opening words of the Article, by which it is a symbol of the mutual love among Christians, was most evident when the Sacrament was celebrated as part of the proceedings of the Agape or love-Feasts held in the Primitive Church. At those meetings the poor received of the bounty of the rich; indeed their very purpose was to express the one-ness and common fellowship of believers in Christ. But primarily the Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament by which our Lord’s words in St. John 6:52–57 about feeding upon Him are realized. The earliest record of the Words of Institution is in 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25, and St. Paul claims the authority of Christ’s revelation to him for his version. According to this, Jesus at the Last Supper “took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you ... In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This is the new Covenant in my blood”. The accounts in the Synoptic Gospels [Mk. 14:22–24; Matt. 26:26–28; Lk. 22:19, 20.] are in substantial agreement with St. Paul’s; Jesus describes the Bread and Wine which He gives to His disciples as His Body and Blood. In what sense are the Lord’s words to be understood? How are the elements in the Eucharist related to the Body and Blood of Christ? It is an ironical reflection that at the Reformation this supreme act of the Church’s worship, which should have been the highest expression of Christian unity, was the centre of conflict; on no question was there wider divergence of opinion than on the presence of Christ in the Sacrament.
The Zwinglian view, which stressed the injunction: “This do in remembrance of Me”, and regarded the bread and wine as mere figures, and the Lord’s Supper as nothing more than a commemoration, or a reminder of the Lord’s Cross and Passion, is rejected in the first part of the Article. Those who communicate “rightly, worthily, and with faith”, truly participate in Christ’s Body and Blood.
Next, the Roman conception of Transubstantiation, which goes to the other extreme by identifying the elements with the Body and Blood of our Lord’s incarnate organism is equally denied, because (a) it is contrary to Scripture – the consecrated bread is still called “bread”, and the consecrated wine is still “this cup” in 1 Corinthians 11:26–28; (b) it overthrows the nature of a Sacrament which, on our definition, consists of two parts, the sign and the grace: it belongs to the idea of a Sacrament that they should be distinct and not equated. And their distinction depends on the ultimate relation between God and creation. Nature is not God, but it expresses and mediates His presence and attributes: “the heavens declare the glory of God” [Ps. 19:1.], and “the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity”. [Rom. 1:20, cf. Acts 14:17.] By changing the substance of the elements, so that they become the actual Body and Blood of Christ, Transubstantiation annuls their symbolic function; the bread and wine are no longer signs, but the thing itself, and thus the nature of a Sacrament is overthrown; Further (c), the doctrine has “given occasion to many superstitions”; for instance, in the 9th century Paschasius Radbert recounted miracles in which drops of blood flowed from the consecrated Host as the form of the infant Christ appeared!
The teaching of the Article is in agreement with the sacramental principle; natural things can and do convey the divine Presence to receptive hearts and minds. Hence it rejects, on the one hand, the belief that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are mere forms, without grace, and on the other, that by consecration their own substance is replaced by that of the things they denote, and so they cease to be signs; a sign cannot signify what it is. The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Communion is affirmed in the first section of our Article, and in the third the nature of that Presence, and how it is made available to us, is stated.
The teaching of the Article should be compared with the very clear and concise statement of Eucharistic doctrine in the Catechism, which affirms:
(1) That the Sacrament was ordained “for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby”;
(2) That the “outward part or sign” is ‘Bread and Wine which the Lord hath commanded to be received’;
(3) That the “inward part or thing signified” is “the Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful”;
(4) That “the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby are the strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine”;
(5) That intending communicants should “examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins, steadfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of His death; and be in charity with all men.” [Cf. the Article, which requires us to receive the Sacrament “rightly, worthily, and with faith” (rite, digne, et cum fide), where rite means “right matter and form” and digne means “right inward disposition”.]
In 1878 the Church of Ireland, to satisfy some objectors, added another question to the Catechism with an answer taken from paragraph three of the Article,* declaring that the Body and Blood of Christ are only taken and received in the Lord’s Supper “after a heavenly and spiritual manner”, and that “the mean whereby they are taken and received is faith”. This clause is by some asserted to be a repudiation of the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist; but others declare that it is merely a denial of Christ’s corporal presence in the Elements.
*The present paragraph was substituted for the original one, which denied the “real” Presence of Christ in the Sacrament: “Forasmuch as ... the body of one and the selfsame man can not be at one time in diverse places ... therefore the body of Christ can not be present at one time in many and diverse places. And because (as Holy Scripture doth teach) Christ was taken up into heaven, and there shall continue unto the end of the world, a faithful man ought not either to believe, or openly confess the real and bodily presence (as they term it) of Christ’s flesh and blood, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” The significance of the change is still a matter of debate. Some argue that no change of doctrine was intended (Dimcock, Papers on the Eucharistic Presence, p. 732); other regard the present form as accepting the Real Presence, and denying only “the corporal presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood” (E. J. Bicknell, Op. cit. p. 383).
Much controversy has arisen around the question as to whether Christ is objectively present in the Sacrament, or merely subjectively present in the faithful recipient. Those who hold the former view assert that Christ, Who is present in the Sacrament, ‘imparts to the communicant His Body and Blood, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful’. Here is an objective gift which is not made by our faith because it is ‘given before we receive it’. Our Lord offers in the Sacrament the gift of Himself; He gives, we take and receive by faith. He has taken the Elements into mystical union with Himself, and made them the vehicle of imparting His life to His members. Thus He is in a real sense present not only in the devout communicant but in the consecrated Elements. The presence, however, is “spiritual” not “corporal” or “bodily”, but it is none the less real on that account. Hence to receive the Body and Blood of Christ does not mean to receive physical and spatial objects, but to receive His life into ourselves “that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us”. In substance, the Elements remain bread and wine. But they are no longer ordinary bread and wine, for by them God “doth work invisibly in us”. The language of the Prayer Book and Articles certainly lends considerable support to this interpretation.
The history of Christian doctrine shows how realistically the Words of Institution were interpreted in the Primitive Church. The emphasis on the Eucharistic Presence is so strong among early Church writers that their language might sometimes be mistakenly thought to support the belief in Transubstantiation. Because they bring about the believers’ union with Christ, Ignatius calls the Elements in the Holy Communion “the medicine of immortality” [Epistle to the Ephastans, xx.2.], and Irenaeus tells us how they have their effect: “Just as the bread, which comes from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, being composed of two elements, a terrestrial and a celestial one, so our bodies are no longer commonplace when they receive the Eucharist, since they have the hope of resurrection to eternity.” [Adv. Haer. iv. 34.] Augustine explained that the Lord’s Supper is a proper Sacrament, since in the bread and the cup “one thing is seen, another understood. [Sermons 272. 2, Ad Infantes.] “The Body and Blood of Christ will then be life to each, if what is visibly taken in the Sacrament be in very truth spiritually eaten, spiritually drunk.” [Sermon 2 De Verbis Apostoli.]
Those who dislike the objective view of the Sacrament, generally hold the Receptionist view. They believe that “though the Body and Blood of the Lord are really received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper, yet their presence is real in the hearts of the recipients only, and not in the Elements prior to reception. According to this doctrine the consecrated bread and wine are said to be the Lord’s Body and Blood only in a figure”. [Commission’s Report on Doctrine in the Church of England (1938), p. 169.] Dr. Bicknell asserts that there is nothing in the Prayer Book to prevent an Anglican from holding the Receptionist theory. Bishop McAdoo, on the other hand, declares that “it certainly seems that the Church in her liturgy stresses beyond cavil the objectivity of the gift”. [H. R. McAdoo, No New Church, 1945, p. 26] In the absence of any authoritative statement by the Anglican Church on the subject, we may conclude that both the objective and subjective theories of the Real Presence may be held and taught in our Communion. On this subject, the Faith and Order Theological Commission declared, “It is necessary to guard against language which is occasionally used, which suggests that the only requisite for a valid Sacrament is the faith of the recipient, and ignores completely the divine action. We experience the benefits of a Sacrament, they are not made efficacious by our experience”. [The Ministry and the Sacraments (1937), p. 27.] The Commission accepted the doctrine of the Real Presence, though they held different views as to how the Presence is realized and manifested in the Sacraments.
Article XXIX: Of The Wicked Which Do Not Eat 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.
The teaching of this Article follows from paragraph three of the previous one. If the Body and Blood of Christ, symbolized by the bread and wine, are spiritually discerned and received by faith, then “the wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith” cannot be partakers of Christ. Only where His presence is regarded physically by being identified with the Elements, as in Transubstantiation, is the reception of Him independent of the communicant’s spiritual state. “The Wicked” is a strong term; its Latin equivalent, impii, does not refer to earnest, though morally faulty, persons; it means rather those who are indifferent and irreligious, and without a consciousness of God have become flagrant evil-doers.
The Catechism describes the right approach to the Lord’s Supper; those who come are required “to examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, steadfastly purposing to lead a new life ...”. In the same spirit St. Paul admonishes the Corinthians to make their attendance at the Lord’s Table an occasion for sober reflection. [1 Cor 11:28.]
Belief in the Son is the great formula in St. John for gaining eternal life; but this includes the eating of His Flesh and the drinking of His Blood. [Jn. 6:54.] If the feeding on Him spoken of by our Lord in St. John 6 has a special reference to the Sacrament, then partaking of Him in this way depends on faith in Him.
St. Paul’s statement that the unworthy communicant is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord [1 Cor. 11:27.] may be interpreted in two ways, according to the view taken of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Where it is understood to be spiritual, he does not partake of Christ at all; but by profaning so sacred a mystery, he incurs judgement against himself; while on the doctrine of Transubstantiation, although he eats and drinks the Body and Blood, it is to condemnation, and not to salvation.
For the sake of simplicity, the Eucharist has been considered as having three parts, viz.: the signum, or bread and wine, received by the faithful and unfaithful alike; the Res or Body and Blood of Christ, offered to all alike; and the Virtus Sacramenti or the “benefits” of the Sacrament, of which only the faithful are partakers. [Heb. 3:14.] St. Augustine in his Twenty-sixth Homily on St. John says: “He who does not abide in Christ and in whom Christ does not abide, undoubtedly does not (spiritually) eat His flesh nor drink His Blood (though he may visibly and carnally press with his teeth the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ), but rather eateth and drinketh the Sacrament of so great a thing to his own condemnation.” [The Benedictine editors regarded the words bracketed as interpolations.] In general, the traditional Christian view about the effective use of the Lord’s Supper presupposes that the communicant is already “in Christ”, and thinks and lives as a true member of His mystical Body, the Church. This is the point in 1 Corinthians 11:.29; through conduct contrary to the spirit of the Christian fellowship, i.e. “if he discern not the body”, a man “eateth and drinketh judgement unto himself”. St. Hilary (360 A.D.) says: “The bread that came down from heaven is not taken except by him who has the Lord, and is a member of Christ”. [On the Trinity, viii.] “We consume bread”, writes Origen, “which by virtue of the prayer has become a body, a holy thing which sanctifies those who use it with a sound purpose”. [Against Celsus, viii.33.] And St. Augustine makes this comment on St. John 6:56: “Here our Lord shows what it is, not only sacramentally, but really, to eat Christ’s Body and to drink His Blood, even to dwell in Christ, and Christ in him. And He said this, as much as to say, Let not him who abides not in Me and I in him say or think that he eats my flesh or drinks my blood”. [On the City of God, xxi.25. Article XXIX was drafted in 1563 to emphasize the necessity of a lively faith and to guard against unworthy participation of the Sacrament. It was not published immediately, however. The delay was partly due to a desire to conciliate Roman Catholics who were still in communion with the Church of England. When the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth I and the English people in 1570, and urged her subjects to help to dethrone her, it would have been futile to hope for further conciliation. The Article was published in 1571.]
Article XXX: Of Both Kinds
[One of the 1563 Articles, due to Archbishop Parker, and drawn up in reply to the decisions of the Council of Trent confirming the mediaeval practice of Communion in one kind.]
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.
The error repudiated by this Article, the depriving of the congregation of the Cup in the Holy Communion, is one peculiar to the Roman Church. The Orthodox Greek and other Eastern Churches, as well as the Protestant and Reformed Churches, all administer the Sacrament in both bread and wine. The root of the Roman custom lies in the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is, of course, very proper that the mediating signs of the Lord’s Body and Blood should be highly esteemed and reverently treated, as a rubric at the end of the Communion Office provides; but if it is believed that the Elements are converted into the very Body and Blood of Christ, a special dread will attach to their misuse, either deliberately or by accident.
The initial step in withholding the cup from the laity was taken in the practice of dipping the bread in the wine that began in the 7th century, and was condemned by the Third Council of Bracara (675 A.D.). But for centuries there was no uniform rule on the question.
In 1095 the Council of Clermont decreed that all should communicate in both kinds, unless for some reason it should be otherwise. It was first laid down by the Council of Constance in 1415 that communion in the bread only by lay-people was sufficient, on the ground that the substance of each Element was included in the other. At the same time it was conceded that the practice was an innovation, and without authority in Scripture or Primitive practice: “Although Christ instituted this Sacrament in both kinds, and the faithful in the primitive Church received in both kinds; yet the contrary practice being reasonably brought in to avoid some danger and scandal, they appoint the custom to continue of consecrating in both kinds, and of giving to the laity only in one kind, since Christ was entire and truly contained under each kind” (Session xiii). In 1562 the Council of Trent confirmed this doctrine of concomitance – “that Christ, whole and entire the fountain and author of all graces, is received under the one species of bread”, and followed the Council of Constance in withholding the Chalice from the laity. This Article was composed in reply by Archbishop Parker in 1563. The reasons given by the Council were: “The risk of spilling the precious Blood; the difficulties of reserving Communion under the species of wine; the dread of drinking from a chalice touched by infected lips; the cost of obtaining wine for thousands of communicants”. But such reasons of expediency hardly justify the abandonment of a principle established from Apostolic times. Roman apologists defend their denial of the Chalice to anyone save the Celebrant [“Laymen, and clerics when not celebrating, are not obliged by any divine precept to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both Kinds”. (Council of Trent, Session XXI, Ch.1).] by citing the Revised Version of 1 Corinthians 11:27: “Whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”. But the context makes it clear that no special significance is to be attached to the word “or” for each recipient is expected to “eat this bread and drink this cup’. [In addition to vv.24 and 25, note the statement in v.26, and the words of v.28: “so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup,” and in v.29: “he that eateth and drinketh”, which make the intention quite clear.] This was clearly the intention of our Lord when He said “Drink ye all of it,” [Mtt. 26:27.] and according to St. Mark “they all drank of it”. [Mk. 14:23.] Even if only the Apostles were present, and they are all regarded as being Priests, the Roman practice is still without support because in the Mass the Celebrant alone partakes of both kinds; the other clergy present are ranked with the laity and only receive the consecrated Bread. St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:27–29 refer to the members of the Corinthian Church in general, as do those of 10:16, 21: “ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils”. The testimony of early Church authors is to the same effect. St. Ignatius writes to the Christians in Philadelphia: “Be ye careful to observe one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup into union in His blood)”. [Ep. to the Philadelphians, C.4. The words bracketed are a later insertion, and therefore evidence for communion in both Kinds alter Ignatius’ day.] Similarly, Justin Martyr relates that “the deacons gave to each one present to receive of the bread, over which thanks had been offered, and of wine mixed with water”. [Apol. i. 65.]
While we acknowledge that the Church has “power to decree Rites and Ceremonies” [Article XX.], she has no right to authorize anything that is “contrary to God’s Word written”, and therefore no right to deny the Chalice to the laity. Our Lord at the institution of the Sacrament linked the Cup with the shedding of His blood [Lk. 22:20.], and this reference is preserved in the Anglican Words of Administration, but is lost if the Chalice is denied to the laity. Earlier, in the 5th century, Pope Leo ordered that certain Manichaeans should be excommunicated for refusing to drink the Cup; at that period its non-reception was regarded as heretical! Pope Paschall II in 1118 also condemned the practice of communicating in one Kind. For the first six centuries the Bread and the Chalice were administered separately to all the Faithful, and it is a serious charge against the Church of Rome that by a precaution inspired by the erroneous doctrine of Transubstantiation she had mutilated the ordinance of Christ and contravened early Church practice.
Article XXXI: Of The One Oblation Of Christ Finished Upon The Cross
[One of the Forty-two Articles of 1553. The word blasphema was inserted in the Latin version of 1563, but “blasphemous” did not appear in the English version until 1571; “forged fables” was used in 1563 English version.]
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 sacrifice of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.
It will have been noticed on reading the Articles that sometimes authority for the doctrine contained in them is given in a phrase like, “As St. Paul saith”, “as the Apostle confesseth”, or “as St. Augustine saith”. For this Article it might be claimed with even greater force: “as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews saith”. Both in language and idea the positive teaching of the first part of the Article is all there, and from it the concluding condemnation of “the sacrifices of Masses” follows. Again it is a corruption of the Roman Church, based on the belief in Transubstantiation, which is rejected.
Under Article XV we saw that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tries to present the Christian Faith from the standpoint of one of the great schools of Greek philosophy, that of Plato. Central in Plato’s thought is the theory of two worlds, one of which is the invisible, eternal, unchanging order of perfect things, and the other the movement and striving of all that is incomplete and imperfect in our world of sense and time. “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” [2 Cor. 4:18.]; this statement of St. Paul’s conveniently expresses the dual view of existence in Platonism. But the two worlds are not entirely unrelated; on the contrary, the present scene depends upon the higher world for whatever order and meaning it has: the eternal realm is ever seeking to penetrate and embody itself in the things of time. Yet it never altogether succeeds; if it did, then that which is perfect would have come, with its emotional accompaniment of utter satisfaction, and the reason for change and effort would be removed. So everything in experience and history is imperfect; only in a measure does it contain the full Reality to which it is a pointer.
It is, therefore, on the strength of his faith in the Person of Christ, and not on his Platonism, that the writer of the Epistle affirms that perfection has appeared. As the Son of God, Jesus is the Mediator of the eternal order; being who He is, He is the perfect office-bearer, and all the functions of His office are completely performed and achieve their ends.
The aspect of Christ’s work most fully discussed in the Epistle is our redemption. He is everything par excellence relating to salvation, the perfect High Priest, the perfect Mediator, and the perfect Sacrifice; in a word, Christ is the faultless expression of the principle of sacrifice which runs through religion.
This superiority of Christ’s Person and Work is brought out in a series of comparisons. The mysterious royal and priestly figure of Melchizedec, who is “without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life”, – and remains for ever a priest, is the highest type of Christ in the Old Testament. Whereas the Law authorized the Levitical priests to take tithes from the people, Abraham, to whom God’s promises to His people were first made, and the ancestor of the old priesthood, gave tithes to Melchizedec and received his blessing, and truly “the less is blessed of the better”. [Heb. 7:1–7; Gen. 14:18–20.]
A parallel is drawn between the Aaronic priesthood and that of Christ. The former was changing and passing; but God’s oath to Israel’s ruler and High Priest in Psalm 110:4 is transferred to Christ; it is He who is “named of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedec”, and “because He abideth for ever, he hath a priesthood that doth not pass to another”. [Heb. 5:10; 7:24 (R.V. Margin).] And further, the Jewish high priest went once every year on the Day of Atonement into the Holy of Holies, and there offered sacrifices with animal blood for his sins and those of the people; but Jesus, “undefiled, separated from sinners”, has passed through the heavens having obtained eternal redemption for us by the offering of Himself. [Heb. 8:1,2; 9:14, 24.] The heart of the argument of the Epistle is put in Platonic terms: the Law and its sacrificial system, being a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of them, “can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh”. [Heb. 10:1.] By their unreality and ineffectiveness the Jewish sacrifices suggested another and true Sacrifice sufficient for the need they could not meet.
In the Article the offering of Christ is described as “that perfect redemption [Matt. 20:28; Tit. 2:4; Heb. 9:12.], propitiation [Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10; Heb. 2:17.], and satisfaction”, which means its sufficiency to meet every aspect of God’s requirement concerning sinful humanity.
The idea of decisiveness, of finality, associated with perfection in the Epistle is also mentioned in our Article The Offering of Christ once made; their repetition was proof of the deficiency of the old sacrifices, signifying that they could never take away sins. [Heb. 10:11.] Similarly it belongs to the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice that it accomplishes its redeeming purpose by providing an eternal ground of salvation, and need never be repeated: hence the emphasis laid by the author on the “once-for-allness” of the death on the Cross. [Heb. 9:28; 10:10.] In Romans 6:10 and in 1 Peter 3:18 we have the same thought; but the instructive thing about its place in the Epistle to the Hebrews is that there it is part of a reasoned argument, the only one in the New Testament on the significance of the Death of Christ. The description of that event in the Communion Office as “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction”, except for the last term (which is not a Scriptural one) might be directly traced to that book.
In the teaching of the New Testament, then, the Death of the Cross is a Self-offering of Christ, and as the sacrifice of the Son of God it is infinite in its scope and depth; it is entirely adequate for its purpose of redemption, and therefore perfect, unique (unicus),* and “once made”** for in the nature of the case it need not be repeated. For these reasons the Roman sacrifices of Masses, which claim to continue it, are an encroachment on the divine prerogative and dignity, and so are by definition “blasphemous”.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “The Mass is a propitiatory Sacrifice for the living and the dead, and the souls in Purgatory are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but chiefly by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar”. [Council of Trent, Session XXV; Sess.VI. Canon 30; Sess. XII. Ch. 2, Can.3; cf. Col. 1:14; Rom. 3:24f.; 2: Cor. 5:19.] The Article condemns “the sacrifices of Masses*** ... for the quick and the dead” as “blasphemous” (because they implied that the Sacrifice on the Cross was imperfect, since they are regarded as supplementary to Christ’s sacrifice), “fables” or fictions, and “dangerous deceits” (Latin perniciosae imposturae, “pernicious impostures”, because they led people to trust in false hopes).
*This is more evident in the Latin title of the Article “De unica Christi Oblations in Cruce perfecto”, where unica means “one and no more, the only one of its kind” (it is used also in the body of the Article – “there is none other satisfaction for sins, but that alone, illam unicam”); the words “upon the Cross” exclude any repetition of the sacrifice as a fresh propitiation.
**The Latin for “once” (seimel) corresponds to the Greek ephapax meaning “once for all” as in Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; or as hapax in Heb. 6:4; 9:28; 10:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; Jude 3. Whereas the sacrifice of Christ can never be repeated, because it is perfect and complete; yet in every celebration of the Eucharist the death of Christ is proclaimed and shown forth in all its saving efficacy and power.
***Hence it is sometimes argued that the Article is not explicitly directed against the official Roman doctrine promulgated at Trent, which speaks of “the sacrifice of the Mass”, whereas the Article refers to “sacrifices of Masses”. But the latter phrase was in common use, and is found in the decree of Union signed at Florence (1438) by Eastern and Western (Roman) Bishops, which says of those who die in venial sin: “their souls are cleansed after death by purgatorial pains; and in order that they may he relieved of these pains the suffrages of the faithful living profit them, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety.” The Article seems to have these words in mind.
Chapter X – Church And State
Article XXXVII: Of The Civil Magistrates
[This Article is derived from a similar one composed as one of the Forty-two Articles (1553) which, however, ran as follows:
“The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
“The civil magistrate is ordained and allowed (probates) of God: wherefore we must obey him, not only for fear of punishment, but also for conscience’ sake.
“The civil laws may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
“It is lawful for Christians, at the commandment of the magistrate to wear weapons, and to serve in lawful wars.”
The first paragraph was re-cast in 1563, when the present second paragraph was also added.]
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 Scriptures 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 evil-doers.
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 commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
This Article deals summarily with a number of most contentious matters, on each of which volumes could be written – Papal Supremacy, the relations between Church and State, the merits of Capital Punishment, and Pacifism. Within the limits of our space it is possible to make only a brief reference to them.
The Roman Catholic Church declares that, “St. Peter was the chief Apostle, exercising by Christ’s appointment the supreme power of governing His Church,” [B. L. Conway, The Question Box, p. 145.] and this claim is supported by appealing to St. Matt. 16:18f: – “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” At first sight this appears to be conclusive evidence of the validity of the claim, but it must be viewed in the light of the following facts:
The same authority in Church discipline was given to the other Apostles; [Matt. 18:18; John 20:23; Acts 8:14.] St. Peter did not have a monopoly of “binding” and “loosing.” He was “sent” by the other Apostles to Samaria, [Acts 8:14.] required to explain his action concerning Cornelius, [Acts 11:1f.] and was rebuked by St. Paul. [Gal. 2:11f. It is the business of a leader to lead, but St. Peter gave no lead on this question of eating with Gentiles. The Jesuit Harduin in 1709, realizing that the incident is fatal to the claims for the primacy of Peter, argued that the Cephas of Gal. 2 was not Peter. Lightfoot justly remarked that the context excluded this view, and a Roman Catholic writer agrees “There was a real dissension, and a real rebuke.” B. L. Conway, Op. cit. p. 153.] It was St. James, not St. Peter, who was leader of the Church in Jerusalem, [Acts 12:17; 21:18.] and was apparently acknowledged as such by St. Peter. [St. Peter said, “tell these things ‘unto James and to the brethren’.” Acts. 12:17.] At the Council of Jerusalem St. James presided, and at the conclusion gave his personal judgement. [Acts 15:19.] St. Paul also names him before Cephas, (Peter) and John in referring to the “pillars” of the Church. [Gal. 2:9.] Such evidence against the primacy of St. Peter cannot be dismissed by regarding it merely as evidence of his personal humility; if he in fact occupied an official position of primacy (as Roman theologians claim) he would have insisted on his rights, and the other Apostles would have acknowledged his supremacy. True, miraculous powers were associated with St. Peter [Acts 5:15.], but also with St. Paul. [Acts 19:11, 12.] Though St. Peter was often spokesman for the Apostles and sometimes took the initiative, it was because of his personal qualities. Important decisions were made by the Apostles corporately. [For instance, in the election of Matthias: “they appointed two ..., they prayed, ... they gave forth their lots” Acts 2:23, 24, 26.] St. Peter is not even mentioned in the most important matter of the appointment of the seven Deacons. [Acts 6:2, 4, 6. Note it was a corporate decision.] There is no evidence in the New Testament that he was ever Bishop of Rome, or that any authority belonging exclusively to him passed to any successor of his in a particular office. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, writing c. 180 A.D., says the Church in Rome was “founded by two most glorious Apostles, Paul and Peter” and that “The blessed Apostles after founding and building up the Church entrusted the office of Bishop to Linus. Paul speaks of this Linus in his Epistles to Timothy.” [Adv. Haereses, III.3. 1, 2. cf. 2 Tim. 4:21.] St. Paul, writing (c. 57 A.D.) to the Christians in Rome, was concerned that they should be “established” by a visit from him [Rom. 1:11.], and also declared that his aim was to preach in unevangelized areas “lest I should build upon another man’s foundation”. [Rom. 15:20.] How could he write in such terms if, as alleged, St. Peter had been Bishop there since 42 A.D.? [Bishop Lightfoot concluded that Peter did not arrive in Rome before A.D. 63. Apostolic Fathers, Part I, Vol. II (1890), p. 497.] Whatever prominence is accorded to St. Peter in the Gospels can be satisfactorily explained on his seniority among the Apostles. St. Paul says that he is “not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles” [2 Cor. 11:5; cf. 12:11.]; his converts are his very own children in Christ [1 Cor. 4:14f.; Gal. 4:19.]; the welfare of all the churches is his practical concern and constant source of anxiety [1 Cor. 11:34; Tit. 1:5.]. As Bishop Lightfoot said, if there is any apostolic primacy in these first days, it belongs to St. Paul.
Spheres of special work [Gal. 2:9.], but authoritative interest in the churches everywhere, such is the pattern of apostolic jurisdiction in the New Testament, and it was continued in the early Church. All Bishops had equal status and authority as Bishops of the one Catholic Church: “There is one episcopate in the Church” wrote St. Cyprian (250 A.D.), “and every Bishop has an undivided portion in it”. Gregory of Nazianzus (370 A.D.) styles Cyprian and Athanasius Bishops of the whole world.
But even if our Lord thought of Peter as “Primate” of the Apostolic Church, there is no evidence that he was given authority to transmit his office to others. Furthermore, it is a fact of history that the Bishops of Rome neither claimed nor received in the earliest centuries any recognition as Head of the Church. The first Bishops of Rome to claim supremacy over other Bishops were Innocent I (d. 417 A.D.) and Leo I (440-461). Nor did papal claims stop with the Church; they were gradually extended to the sphere of political power also. The issue of the relation between Church and State originated with the conversion of the Roman Emperor to the Faith, for then two powers, both Christian, governed the people; the question was to decide the sphere of jurisdiction belonging to each. By the time of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, early in the 4th century, the tendency of the Bishops to Rome to assert their superiority among other Bishops was developing, and their pretensions steadily increased until they encroached on the rights of the heads of states by seeking a ruling influence in national policy. On the eve of the Reformation the Bishop of Patraca, in a sermon before the Lateran Council (1512), made our Lord’s claim in St. Matthew 28:18 for the Pope: “In the Pope is all power above all powers, whether of heaven or of earth”. The reasons behind the development of papal supremacy are not difficult to trace. Something of the greatness and dignity of the capital of the world naturally attached to its Bishop; the prominence of the Roman Church, as appears from the Epistles of Ignatius, rests largely on the prestige of the Imperial city. It is important to bear in mind that a view of the Bishop of Rome’s pre-eminence, based on these considerations, preceded the extravagant interpretation by supporters of the papacy of the well-known words of our Lord to St. Peter, which we must now consider.
The crucial text (St. Matthew 16:18f.) on which so much depends has been variously interpreted. The ancient Fathers [The name by which the scholars of the early Church are known.] gave five interpretations of the word “rock”: (1) 44 Fathers said the “rock” was the faith professed by St. Peter, (2) 17 Fathers said the Church was built on St. Peter, who was himself the “rock”, (3) 16 Fathers said Christ was the “rock”, the Church being built on Him, (4) 8 Fathers thought the word referred to all the Apostles, and (5) a few Fathers thought that the “rock” referred to the Faithful. From this evidence the Roman Catholic Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, U.S.A., concluded: “If we are bound to follow the majority of the Fathers in this thing [Every Roman Catholic Priest is bound by a solemn oath to accept the Creed of Pope Pius IV (1564), which declares concerning the Scriptures: “Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers”.], then we are bound to hold for certain that by the “rock” should be understood the faith professed by Peter, not Peter professing the faith”. [Cited in W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, p. 471.]
Papal supremacy is without support either in the New Testament or in Christian Antiquity; it rests on a forgery, the notorious False Decretals, attributed to Isidore of Seville (d.636), but probably compiled two centuries later. They claim to contain the correspondence of some ante-Nicene Popes, and their purpose was to secure clerical exemption from secular courts by instituting ecclesiastical tribunals, and to effect papal rule over the entire Church. There is ample evidence that the Church in the British Isles, even when it came under Papal obedience, was critical and adopted an independent attitude towards the Pope. The Irish Church resisted papal authority until Henry II completed the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland in 1171. William I (1066) refused to do homage to the Pope for the land of England. The Constitutions of Clarendon (1164), re-affirmed by Magna Charta (1215), greatly limited the Pope’s power of intervening in the affairs of the English Church. Lambeth was chosen (c. 1200) as the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the Pope’s prohibition. In Edward III’s reign, two Acts of Parliament forbade the surrender of the incomes of English benefices to the Pope, and prevented English lawsuits from being referred to the Pope. Hence Henry VIII’s action in repudiating Papal Supremacy was only the end of a process. Roman Catholics do not argue that the whole Christian Church, except the diocese of Rome, was for the first four centuries not part of the true Catholic Church. If the Church of that period can be acknowledged as Catholic without accepting Papal Supremacy, why is acceptance of such supremacy now deemed necessary to membership of the Catholic Church?
Rejecting the Papal Supremacy, the Article asserts the Royal Supremacy, allowing to the Monarch “the chief government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil.” Our Lord emphasized that we have a duty to Caesar (the State) as well as to God. [Mk. 12:13–17.] St. Paul urged that “Every subject must obey the government authorities, for no authority exists apart from God”. [Rom. 13:1 (Moffatt), cf. John 19:11, power is “from above”.] Loyalty and obedience to the civil power is a Christian duty. [Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13–17.] In 1534 King Henry, in order to secure the submission of the clergy, claimed the title “Supreme Head of the English Church and Clergy”. The title was used by Edward and by Mary until she married Philip in 1554. Queen Elizabeth claimed only to be “Supreme Governor” and made it clear that she only claimed the authority “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 they be, so as no other foreign power shall or ought to have any superiority over them”. The Article makes it clear that the Ministry of Word and Sacrament is no part of the Monarch’s function.
Since the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America is entirely independent of the English Monarch, this Article has been replaced in that part of the Anglican Communion by one entitled “Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates”. It affirms thus:
“The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, regularly and legitimately constituted”.
In view of recent and impending political changes in other parts of the Anglican Communion, it may be deemed desirable (if legally possible) to replace the present Article with “a statement of principles applicable under any government”. If so, Dr. C. B. Moss’s suggested alternative has certain merits which warrant consideration and justify its inclusion in our treatment of the relationship between Church and State. The text of his proposal is as follows:
Of Church and State
“The Church and the State are two distinct societies, and we are members of both: of the State by birth or legal admission; of the Church by Baptism and by Confirmation, which is the completion of Baptism.
The authority of the State is enforced on all who live in its territory: the authority of the Church is voluntary, for no adult person can be compelled by civil law to accept the authority of the Church. The State has to obey the will of the people: the Church is bound to obey the revealed will of God, and the rules which it has made in agreement therewith. The purpose of the State is the welfare of mankind, especially its own members, in this world: the purpose of the Church is the eternal salvation of the souls of all men. The authority of both Church and State is from God, for there is no power but of God (Rom. 13:1): and we are bound to obey the laws of both, by Divine command and by natural justice. The Church ought not to impose on its members any particular political or economic system: and the State ought not to enforce any direction contrary to the faith, worship, or morals of the Church, nor ought it to be obeyed if it does (Dan. 3:18, 6:10; St. Mark 12:17; Acts 5:28).
The law of the land may punish any man with death, if he is justly found guilty of grievous offences.
Christian men may wear weapons and serve in lawful wars, if they are required to do so by the law of the land. But war is a grave sin against God, both in itself and for its consequences, and no state ought to undertake it, except in extreme necessity, and to avoid worse evils.” [C. B. Moss, The Thirty-nine Articles Revised (1961), p. 35f. Dr. Moss deals with Papal claims in an earlier Article, in which he rejects the Bishop of Rome’s right to have “any authority or jurisdiction, either temporal or spiritual, over any Anglican province or diocese”, Op. cit., p. 23.]
The two examples of the exercise of Civil authority mentioned in the concluding clauses of the original Article (and repeated in substance by Dr. Moss) are much debated today, namely, capital punishment and the Christian attitude to war. With regard to the former, our Lord’s words recorded in St. Matthew 5:38, 39 against resisting evil refer to private revenge, and are inapplicable to the law of the State; He in fact employed force in expelling the traffickers from the Temple courts. [Jn. 2:15.] St. Paul regarded the Civil power, when administering punishment for evil-doing, as the minister of God for good. [Rom. 13:3, 4.] It will be noted that the Article goes no further than to say that capital punishment is permissible (“may”); [Gen. 9:6; Acts 25:11; Rom. 12:4.] it does not say that it “should” be imposed.
John the Baptist’s advice to the soldiers, recorded in St. Luke 3:14, influenced later Christian thought on the Church member’s attitude to military service; it was noted that while he told them to do their duty honourably, he did not invite or urge them to change their profession. [Cf. also Acts 10:22, 47.] Different opinions were expressed among the Church Fathers; some, like Tertullian, considered a military career unbefitting for a Christian, but it was not something held against a man in the official view of the Church. There were certainly many Christians in the Imperial forces (as in our Forces today), and it has been suggested that the Gospel was introduced into Britain by the witness of unknown legionaries. A valid distinction may be drawn between acts of aggression, and the use of force to preserve human rights and liberties; the latter would be just wars’ within the meaning of the Article.
Article XXXVIII: Of Christian Men’s Goods Which Are Not Common
[The Article dates from 1553, and was written to dissociate the Anglican Reformers from fanatical sects who advocated a policy of “communism”.]
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.
Two leading Anabaptists, Thomas Munzer and John Bockhold taught that with “true baptism” went a renunciation of all worldly possessions; genuine acceptance of the Gospel dissolved every claim and right to hold property of any kind. But such “communism” was very different from the modern atheistic communism of Marxist theory, which gives to the individual a right to a share in material things by virtue of his contribution to the general economy; in Anabaptist “communism” a person’s needs made him dependent on brotherly charity.
Two New Testament passages were adduced in support of this idea, Jesus’ advice to the rich young ruler to sell his possessions [Mark 10:17–22.], and the example of the Church in Jerusalem. [Acts 2:44f.; 4:32ff.] As regards the first, it is most improbable that our Lord was stating a general rule which He wished to see applied to society at large; it would be contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures He esteemed so highly to think so. A more likely interpretation is that in His interview with the young man, our Lord sensed the radical weakness of His questioner; He perceived that his interest in life was centred on his possessions. Although keeping the commandments did not necessarily entail dispensing with his riches, because of his particular attitude to his possessions they became for him the one thing that stood between him and eternal life; in his case readiness to dispose of material wealth for charity’s sake was the acid test of the sincerity of his desire for the supreme spiritual goal.
In assessing the significance of the “communistic” experiment described in the Acts of the Apostles, we must remember that it originated at a time when the first Christians lived under the conviction that the Return of Christ and the close of the present Age was imminent; they believed that they were at the last hour [1 John 2:18; 1 Pet. 1:5.], the world was passing away [1 John 2:17.], and the end was at hand. [1 Pet. 4:7.] Against the background of this expectation earthly possessions belonged to a perishing system and signified little; the best use of them was to turn them into a common fund for the benefit of all in the meantime. The dominant motive behind the experiment may, however, have been a purely altruistic one, unconnected with their belief in the Return of Christ. It may have been simply because they shared a common religious experience, and acknowledged a common Lord, they were prepared to share even their material possessions. We read that the members of the Church at Jerusalem “had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” [Acts 2:45f.,cf. 4:34–37, 5:1ff.] This might appear to be the logical outcome of the teaching of Jesus, but it is remarkable that there is no evidence of the practice in the New Testament Epistles. It has been suggested, therefore, that no more than a system of organized charity was practiced. [Cf. “The Communism of Acts” by K. Lake in The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. V, p. 148f.] The Jews had a Kuppah or “basket” fund, whereby each Friday collections and distributions to the poor were made. In addition, a daily collection of food was made from door to door, called the Tamhui or “tray”, for those in need of food for the coming day. The reference in Acts (6:1) to “the daily ministration” is reminiscent of this Jewish practice, and may indicate that the Church merely followed the Jewish system. The practice described in Acts was obviously voluntary, not compulsory [Acts 5:4.], and there is no other evidence that community of goods was practiced in the early Church. The fact that before long the Church of Jerusalem required financial assistance [Rom. 15:25–28; 1 Cor. 16:1f.; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12.] is significant as suggesting the failure of the early experiment.
The right to possess private wealth is everywhere affirmed in the Bible: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own”? [Matt. 20:15.] But the method of acquiring wealth is often associated with avarice, dishonesty and oppression, and comes under frequent attack, particularly from the prophets. [Isa. 3:14f.; Ezek. 18:12; Amos 2:6; 4:1; 5:11.] There is nothing inherently wrong with the increase of riches; it is the setting of the heart upon them which is to be avoided. [Ps. 62:10; 1 Tim. 6:10.] Timothy is not told to charge the rich with having possessions, but that ‘they be ready to give away and to share”. [1 Tim. 6:18 (N. E. Bible).] Stress on the responsibility attaching to affluence is an important element in Biblical social ethics, and it should be remembered that the history of socialism, including the modern Welfare State, has its roots in the social consciousness enshrined in the Jewish- Christian tradition.
The Article asserts the right to hold private property, and the duty of almsgiving according to one’s ability. [Acts 11:29.] Our giving must be proportionate to our incomes and possessions. In Judaism, almsgiving was one of the most prominent of religious duties, [Psalms 41:1; 112:9; Prov. 14:21; 31:20; Job. 29:11f.] and was even regarded as efficacious in atoning for sins. [Dan. 4:27. Cp. Sirach 3:30 – “almsgiving maketh an atonement for sins,” and cf. 1 Pet. 4:8.] Our Lord rebuked the ostentatious charity of His day, [Matt. 6:1–4.] but emphasized the blessedness of giving [Acts 20:35.], the many opportunities of helping others [Matt. 25:35ff.], and the reward of giving with the highest motive – “in My Name”. [Mark 9:41.] St. Paul also emphasized the necessity of giving with the right motive. [1 Cor. 13:3.] Christians must work that they “may have to give to him that needeth”. [Ephes. 4:28.] St. Paul’s emphasis on work presupposes that Christians may have private property [1 Thess. 4:10ff.; 2 Thess. 3:8ff.], and the frequent exhortations to almsgiving are meaningless if the early Christians did not have private possessions. [Matt. 6:1; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8, 9:7.]
Article XXXIX: Of A Christian Man’s Oath
[This Article was also composed 1553 against Anabaptist views.]
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 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, judgement, and truth.
Two meanings of swearing are noted in the Article: there is “that vain and rash swearing”, in which the divine Name is lightly spoken in ordinary affirmation or as an expletive and is condemned by all Christians; and also the witnessing on oath in a law-court, which the Article approves. Swearing even in this sense was rejected by the Anabaptists, and here again there was precedence for their attitude in the teaching of some Church Fathers and among the Waldensians, pioneer reformers of the twelfth century. The Quakers, too, have always refused to take oaths, not simply because they hold it to be forbidden in the New Testament, but also on the ground of personal morality. As Christians they invariably speak the truth; in all circumstances their word is their bond, taking an oath could only serve to cast doubt on their customary veracity.
The idea and practice of oaths permeated the structure of civilization in the Old Testament, socially and commercially, to a degree quite unfamiliar to the western way of life; hence the warnings against hasty vows and the invoking of strange gods in business transactions with the heathen. [Eccles. 5:3f.; Jer. 5:7; Deut. 23:21–23.] But oaths taken under proper conditions and for a right purpose are permitted. Jeremiah 4:2, alluded to in the Article, is a good example. To swear by the name of the Lord was considered by the Jews to be a sign of loyalty to Him [Isa. 48:1; Jer. 12:16.], and they conceived of God Himself taking oaths. [Gen. 22:16.] “As the Lord liveth” was a common form of Jewish oath [Judges 8:19; 1 Sam. 20:3; 2 Sam. 15:21.], and the usual gesture was to raise the right arm towards heaven [Deut. 32:10; Dan. 12:7.], the motive being to point to the dwelling place of God. Hence, “to raise the hand” became an expression for “to swear”. [Exod. 6:8 (R.V.): “the land concerning which I lifted up my hand”, but A.V.: “the land concerning the which I did swear”.]
The Article follows our Lord and St. James in condemning vain and rash swearing [Mtt. 5:34–37; Jas. 5:12.], which is condemned also by the third commandment. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord quoted from the Law against profaning the Name of God by swearing falsely and on the honouring of promises made on oath. [Lev. 19:12; etc.] But do the words, “Swear not at all”, disallow swearing of every kind, or do they apply only to this manner of confirming assertions made in common conversation? The considerations to be taken into account for answering this question favour the view that Jesus was thinking only of the careless, trivial use of God’s Name. Every religious Jew held the divine Name in the highest esteem; even when reading his Scriptures he refrained from saying the divine personal Name, Yahweh, and substituted the Hebrew word Adonai, “the Lord”. With such reverence for the Name of God in mind its flippant utterance filled a faithful Jew with horror. The forms of swearing mentioned in St. Matthew 5:34, 35, “by heaven”, “by earth”, or “by Jerusalem”, may relate to attempts by the rabbis to devise permissible oaths. But Jesus insisted that the issue could not be evaded in such a manner; God was still included in such oaths, for heaven is His throne, earth His footstool, and Jerusalem His city. [Isa. 66:1; Ps. 48:2.] And since any oath worth making must be by the greatest [Cf. Heb. 6:13, 16.], there is no point in swearing by a creature, by one’s life or body. [Mtt. 5:36; Rev. 10:6.]
A study of the occasions in the Gospels where the Name of God occurs in the sayings of Jesus will reveal a model of moderation and fitness; His use of the term is always justified by the importance of the context. The peculiar formula of emphasis which He employed, “Amen, amen, I say unto you”, is significant in this connection. When He was put on oath by the High Priest regarding His Messiahship, He answered with a simple affirmation. [Mtt. 26:64.] The solemn affirmations of St. Paul are a form of oath too, when he calls on God or Christ as witnesses to the truth of his declarations about matters which were very close to his heart – his affection for his converts and his ancestral People, Israel; the sincerity of his evangelism, and his anxiety to refute any misrepresentation of him that would hinder the success of his work. [Rom. 1:9; 9:1; Phil. 1:8; Gal. 1:20; 1 Thess. 2:5, 10.] The taking of an oath is also associated with God and commended as “a guarantee that ends any dispute” in the Epistle to the Hebrews. [Heb. 6:16 (Moffatt).] The Bible, therefore, fully justifies the taking of oaths in support of statements made, provided it is done according to Jeremiah’s principle “in justice, judgment and truth”. [Jer. 4:2.]
Since attestation by oath is allowed in Scripture, Christians may help in the administration of the law by testifying in civil courts. In early times, while the Roman Empire was still pagan, it could not be done, as it would have meant acknowledgement of heathen deities or the genius of the Emperor; believers’ disputes were to be settled among themselves. [Matt. 18:15–17; 1 Cor. 6:1.] But under Christian government they “may swear as the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity.”
Appendix A – Questions For Use In Discussion Groups
Chapter I: The Persons Of The Godhead
1. A says, “The Church should not use illustrations from science in her teaching, became only experts in science can distinguish scientific facts from theories”,
B says, “The Church must relate her teaching to that of the scientists, if her message is to be deemed relevant in a scientific age”.
What do you think?
2. Discuss the statement that “Christ’s place and work in the universe is simply an extension of His regenerating effect on the faithful soul”.
3. “There is nothing either in science or theology against viewing the universe as a projection of Divine thought”. Do you agree?
4. Can you think of any points on which sound theology and scientific facts are contradictory?
5. Could the salvation of man have been effected without the Incarnation of the Son of God?
6. How important is it to believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin? Could He have shared our nature to the full without such a birth?
7. “The Divine purpose in Creation is realized in the fellowship of the Church”. Do you agree? What can we do to promote God’s purpose today?
8. Is it important to believe that our Lord descended into Hades?
9. “The doctrine of a future Judgement implies that until then no man’s future state is irrevocably sealed”. Discuss the relation between this view and belief in an Intermediate State.
10. Does “realized eschatology” strengthen or undermine belief in an Intermediate State?
11. Discuss the points of difference between a resurrection appearance and a disembodied spirit. Do you think our Lord’s resurrection was really necessary?
12. Is cremation consistent with Christian beliefs?
13. How would you convince someone that Jesus rose from the dead?
14. How can we overcome the limitations of language in attempting to understand the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord? Is precise definition desirable or possible on such questions?
15. Are modern Space Research programmes likely to have any material effect on Christian beliefs and teaching?
16. Find and discuss some passages in the New Testament which connect the coming of the Holy Spirit with both the Father and the Son.
17. Is it possible to be a Christian without believing in the Holy Spirit? (e.g., is belief in the Spirit essential for a valid sacrament of Holy Baptism by which we are incorporated “into Christ”?).
Chapter II: The Scriptures And Creeds
18. “The Church is founded on the Bible”, – to what extent is that statement true?
19. The teaching of the Old Testament “is to be understood and applied only in the light of Christian principles”. Do you agree?
20. Discuss the value of reading the Old Testament in Public Worship. Are all parts of it of equal value (e.g., the story of Jael’s slaughter of Sisera, and the Book of Isaiah).
21. The Church followed Judaism “in regarding Scripture as the record of revelation, and of unique religious authority”. Consider the bearing of this on our differences with the Roman Church regarding the basis of dogmas of the Faith.
22. Discuss: “There is a tendency towards the New Testament in the Old”.
23. Do you think that Article VII is justified in distinguishing between parts of the Old Testament which are binding upon Christians, and those which are not?
24. “It is a mistake to suppose that prophetic vision or insight contained a clear picture of the future, every detail of which was realized in the event, prophecy is never equal to fulfillment like that: fulfillment is always richer and more meaningful than prophecy”. Do you agree?
25. Discuss the statement: “There are different sorts of truth. If the facts of a story are true but the interpretation they place on God are untrue, is it right to say the story is true?”
26. “No man is ever better than the best he believes”. Is this true? If so, has it any relevance to the Creeds?
27. “Every man should be free to reject whatever he dislikes; the Church should not require acceptance of the Creeds”. Discuss the weakness of such an argument (e.g., should a man be free to reject any of the Commandments with impunity; what would happen to society if everyone did the same?).
28. “It is better to be a heretic than a hypocrite!” Do you agree? Is it necessary to be either one or the other?
Chapter III: The Nature Of Man
29. The present century has seen great scientific advances which are widely regarded as marks of “progress”. Discuss whether it is easier to overcome sin today (consider juvenile delinquency, sexual relationships, the effect of modern advertising on morals and standards, etc.). Can industrialized society be regarded as “better” than rural society?
30. Discuss the failure of the evolutionary theory of ethics to account for conscience.
31. “The doctrine of Original Sin is an attempt to explain the universal sinfulness of human nature”. Do you agree that there is a tendency to do evil in every person – if so, how do you account for it?
32. Discuss the statement: “Nothing is too good to be true; the better it is the truer it is”.
33. God’s love in creation and redemption must be the primary thought about His relation to us. Discuss whether such a belief tends to preserve human freedom.
34. Why can man not “turn and prepare himself, by his natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God”?
35. “For beings placed in a world like ours, acceptance of the Gospel involves two things, the prompting of grace to believe, and personal decision to respond”. Do you agree?
36. Temptation has been defined as “the conflict within us between what we believe to be the will of God on one side and the pull of evil forces on the other”. Is such temptation good for us, or would we be better people without it (e.g., does a person who knows nothing of the will of God experience any consciousness of being tempted)?
37. Discuss the nature of our Lord’s Temptation in the wilderness. Do we ever suffer similar temptations today?
38. How are the two statements in 1 John 1:8 and 3:9 on sinfulness and sinlessness to be reconciled? If we teach that sinless perfection is not feasible on earth, do we undermine the motive for human effort?
39. Article XVI takes an intermediate position between two extremes: (a) the impossibility of forgiveness for the unpardonable sin, and (b) the impossibility of the regenerate committing sin. Discuss the value and limitations of each of the three positions, and show which is in closest accord with your own experience.
40. Should the Church adopt a more stringent attitude towards those who deliberately commit sin? Which attitude is most likely to lead to the sinner’s repentance? Should the same rules be applied and rigidly enforced in every case?
41. Show that the general teaching of the New Testament is that Christians still sin, can repent and receive pardon.
Chapter IV: The Salvation Of Man
42. Discuss the relationship between Baptism and justification.
43. “For St. Paul there is no such thing as an isolated Christian, standing alone and by himself”. Discuss whether this statement is true, and if so, its implications (e.g. can a man be saved in isolation, without being a member of a fellowship)?
44. “Where moral behaviour is the result of human endeavour ... it is not possible to avoid a feeling of self-congratulation and pride in independent accomplishment”. Is this always so? If such pride is sinful, can human endeavour alone ever produce deeds of merit in the sight of God?
45. Consider why our righteous acts can never establish a claim to divine reward.
46. Article XII rejects two wrong attitudes towards Good Works. Is a true attitude towards Good Works important from a practical point of view (e.g., how significant are they in relation to witness to the outsider)?
47. Consider the error corrected in the Epistle of James, and show how its teaching may be reconciled with that of St. Paul.
48. What is the place of Good Works in Christianity? Are they essential?
49. “The basis of Christian living is unique both in content and method”. From such a viewpoint, discuss the statement in Article XIII that “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God”.
50. What should be the dominant motive of Christian conduct?
51. Show from the New Testament that Christian behaviour is not mere obedience to an external code, but the expression of the mind of Christ within the believer.
52. Discuss how the moral sense renders the phrase “a work of supererogation” meaningless.
53. “Conscience commits us to honour the best that we know”. Discuss the implications of this statement.
54. When a serious accident causes loss of life and injury sometimes people say, “It is God’s will”. Do you think it is part of God’s purpose that such accidents happen?
55. Predestination is often interpreted as meaning that every detail of human life is dictated by a predetermined Divine plan. Is such a view consistent with the view that man is endowed by God with a free will?
56. If “Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God” does it apply to all men, and should it affect our attitude towards notorious sinners and criminals (e.g., should a murderer be hanged)?
57. Discuss the effect of “liberalism” in religion on the missionary work of the Church, and on evangelism in general.
58. “One faith, or any form of the same faith, is as good as another”. Do you agree? What is the logical conclusion to which such a view leads? Is it consistent with such passages as Hebrews 1:1–3; 2:1–4, etc.
59. Discuss the statement: “Consistency itself is not sufficient; it must be a consistency in which expression is given to true thinking”.
60. Is opposition and disagreement in thought a good or a bad thing? It is said to be good for governments. Is it also good for religion?
Chapter V: The Church
61. “Men speak as if Christians came first and the Church after: as if the origin of the Church was in the wills of the individuals who composed it. But, on the contrary, throughout the teaching of the Apostles, we see that it is the Church that comes first and the members of it afterwards.” If this is true would the present day members of the Church have any right to originate a new Church (e.g., for the sake of unity) which differed in fundamental doctrine and practice from the Church of the early centuries?
62. “However corrupt the Christians may be, St. Paul does not suggest that they do not belong to the “true” or “real” Church”. Sometimes we hear people today saying, “You may be a member of the Church, but you’re not a Christian”. Can both of these statements be true? If not, which do you think is true?
63. “The prodigal son was still a son even when he was in the far country; he did not become a son by his act of repentance”. The parable illustrates the relationship between God and man. When do we become “sons of God”? Do we have to do something in order to become God’s children?
64. “Truth and loyalty to truth must come first, both for the sake of the truth and for the sake of the Church’s mission in the world. A divided Church, each part of which is convinced of the truth as it sees it, is more likely to convert the world to Christianity than a Church united in uncertainty”. Do you agree?
Chapter VI: The Church’s Authority In Doctrine
65. What is the value of traditions and ceremonies? Is it desirable that they should vary from place to place?
66. If the Church asserted her authority more effectively would it check the spread of sectarianism, or would it foster a reaction which would have the opposite effect?
67. Sometimes people undermine the teaching of the Church by saying, “It’s not what the Church says that matters, it’s what the Bible says”. How would you answer such a statement? Give examples of any real contradiction between the teaching of the Anglican Church and that of the Bible.
68. Discuss the advantages and/or disadvantages of allowing the Civil Power to have rights in Church affairs (e.g., Establishment in the Church of England).
69. “In the New Testament future punishment is usually connected with the Last Judgement and after, and not with the experience of spirits in the Intermediate State”. Is this a valid conclusion from the biblical references given in this chapter?
70. Discuss whether the value of using images as aids to devotion is greater than the dangers inherent in such a practice.
71. Can the Invocation of Saints be justified on any ground?
Chapter VII: The Church’s Authority In Discipline
72. “If too much emphasis is laid on “edification” people get the impression that worship is primarily for the benefit of man; we ought to think more of what type of worship God desires”. Do you agree? What type of worship is most likely to satisfy both God’s desires and man’s needs?
73. How can we keep our Services traditional without allowing them to become dull and monotonous? Give suggestions.
74. “Fellowship is essential in Christian Worship, and fellowship is fully realized only when worship becomes a common and corporate action”. Discuss ways and means of implementing this principle.
75. To what extent should worship be expressed in the everyday language of the people, or should people be taught the language of worship? Is continuity important in worship (the same Bible is read in every generation) or should the forms of worship change to suit each generation?
76. Discuss the reasons for and against clerical celibacy, having regard to the evidence of the New Testament and Church history on the question.
77. Is it desirable that the Church should take disciplinary action against notorious offenders? What form should such discipline take?
78. Should the Church impose discipline on those who break their marriage vows (e.g., by divorce, or remarriage after divorce)?
79. Article XXXIV condemns “whosoever through his private judgement deliberately breaks the traditions and ceremonies of the Church”. Should such offenders be disciplined, and if so, what form of discipline would be effective against such individualists?
80. Discuss the dangers (a) of placing too much emphasis on private judgement, and (b) of underrating private judgement.
81. Over the centuries a great variety of Traditions have developed in the Church. What criteria would you use in assessing the value and importance of particular traditions?
82. The reading of non-canonical writings in the Church’s Services was not unknown in the Church’s history. Should the practice be continued subject to episcopal or synodical approval of the writings to be read (We already read Pastoral Letters from Bishops and extracts from the Lambeth Conference Reports)?
83. Should the Church make use of modern media in her Services, such as religious films or appropriate broadcasts from time to time?
Chapter VIII: The Ministry Of The Church
84. “The Church grew up round its Apostolic Ministry. There is a given-ness both in its faith and in its form”. Examine this statement with reference to the New Testament, and discuss its implications for the re-union of the Church.
85. Would the Church be true to its essential nature as conceived by our Lord, if it had no ordained Ministry? Consider, for instance, the significance of John 20:23, etc.
86. Discuss the reasons for the Roman Catholic Church’s denial of the validity of Anglican Orders.
87. Discuss the significance of the words in the Preface to the Ordinal: “or hath had formerly episcopal Consecration or Ordination”.
88. Most people seek the advice of a trained doctor or lawyer when they require authoritative opinions on medical or legal questions; why are they sometimes so willing to accept the opinion of laymen untrained in theology when they are seeking the answer to religious questions?
Chapter IX: The Sacraments
89. Would our Lord have instituted the Sacraments of the Gospel if participation in them were not necessary for salvation?
90. Discuss the connection between Baptism and Confirmation. Which do you think is most important?
91. “Things in physical Nature can symbolize and communicate spiritual reality”. Discuss this statement and think out some examples to illustrate it.
92. Discuss whether the principle underlying Article XXVI is a sound one.
93. Is it right to re-baptize someone who has been baptized in infancy? Discuss the presuppositions on which such a practice is based, and see if they are in accord with New Testament teaching.
94. Discuss the evidence for believing that Christian Baptism was instituted by our Lord.
95. “Baptism is the means whereby God performs a divine creative act”. If so, should we expect to be able to explain the precise relationship between the form of the Sacrament and its effects?
96. Is there sufficient evidence from the New Testament and early Church history to justify the practice of Infant Baptism?
97. Discuss the teaching of Article XXVIII on the Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
98. Discuss how sacramental worship can be made an instrument of evangelism.
99. Study the Holy Communion Service and discuss its teaching and devotional value. Would you like to see any changes made in the Service?
100. Is it desirable that the Anglican Communion Service should follow the same basic structure in every part of the world?
101. Discuss, following Article XXIX, how the doctrine of Christ’s Presence in the Holy Communion is related to the spiritual state of the communicant.
102. Examine references in the New Testament to the Lord’s Supper which indicate that the early Christians received in Both Kinds (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:23–29).
103. Do you consider that the conception of Transubstantiation is sufficient reason to justify the withholding of the Cup from the laity?
104. Discuss the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the sacrifice of the Death of Christ is the end of all sacrifices.
105. Can the Roman sacrifices of Masses be said to resemble the Jewish sacrifices in any way?
Chapter X: Church And State
106. Discuss the facts which led to the development of the Bishop of Rome’s pre-eminence. Do these facts justify Roman Catholic claims?
107. Can it be demonstrated conclusively from the New Testament that St. Peter was chief amongst the Apostles?
108. Can the Royal Supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs be justified on theological or historical grounds?
109. Is the teaching of Article XXXVII on Capital Punishment and Pacificism satisfactory?
110. Consider whether our Lord’s teaching (e.g., His advice to the Rich Young Ruler) supports the principles of modern Communism.
111. Discuss the instances of “communism” in the Acts of the Apostles, and their background. Do they constitute an obligation upon us to adopt the same practice?
112. Show that while “the right, title, and possession” of wealth are admitted in Scripture, it also teaches the stewardship of wealth.
113. Consider the implications of our Lord’s teaching on swearing in St. Matthew 5:34–37.
114. Are the Quakers justified in refusing to take oaths?
115. Discuss St. Paul’s invoking the Name of Christ or of God in solemn affirmation (Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20), and consider whether they justify the taking of oaths.
Appendix B – Christian Initiation
W. G. Wilson
In his review of Dr. Thornton’s book, Confirmation, its place in the Baptismal Mystery, Dr. Lampe declared: “The exegesis employed in this book should rather be described as eisegesis, an imposition of a pattern upon the text rather than an exposition of its own inner meaning.” [J. T. S., N.S., Vol. VI, Pt. i, April 1955, p. 112.] The more closely one studies recent books and articles on the subject of Christian Initiation, the more evident it becomes that few writers have succeeded in avoiding some measure of eisegesis in their treatment of the New Testament and Patristic writings. It may be that even Dr. Lampe has indulged in a little eisegesis in certain parts of his book, The Seal of the Spirit. For instance, in his treatment of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus he considers that “it is particularly their baptism which has admitted them [the catechumens] into the brotherhood. The bishop’s part is to complete the ceremony with the laying on of his hands, prayer that they might receive grace to serve God according to His will, and signing with the mark of Christ.” He then goes on to say: “Confirmation, if we are so to designate the final stage of the initiatory rite, appears to be ... a complex of subsidiary ceremonies expressive of the bishop’s blessing ..., of his prayer that they may receive grace for positive and active service for God, ... unction ..., and of the signing of the Cross ...”, and he concludes: “All these are of relatively small importance as compared with the baptism itself which gives them meaning and of which they are, so to speak, an explanatory extension.” [The Seal of the Spirit, pp. 135–6.] But even a casual reader of the text of the Apostolic Tradition will feel that Dr. Lampe is unduly minimizing the significance of the bishop’s part in the Initiation. He does not mention that the rite concludes with the words:
Thenceforth they [the newly baptized] shall pray together with all the people. But they shall not previously pray with the faithful before they have undergone all these things.
And after the prayers, let them give the kiss of peace. [G. Dix, The Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Vol. I, p. 39.]
These explicit statements should be sufficient to preclude any suggestion that the baptismal act without the bishop’s part was sufficient to admit the catechumen into the brotherhood. In this connection it will be remembered that Professor Ratcliff [Theology, Vol. LI, No. 334, April 1948, p. 138.] pointed out that in Justin Martyr’s description of Christian Initiation the “washing” of the catechumen is followed by the offering of “prayers in common both for ourselves and for the person who has received illumination”, after which “we salute one another with a kiss when we have concluded the prayers” (Apol., lxv). It is surely significant that both in Justin and in the Apostolic Tradition the brethren exchange the kiss of brotherhood, not immediately after the “washing” but after the “common prayers” of the Faithful.
A cursory reading of Dix’s edition of the text of the Apostolic Tradition gives the impression that the Church of his day undoubtedly connected the gift of the Spirit with the bishop’s prayer and Imposition of Hands. Hippolytus says,
And the bishop shall lay his hand upon them invoking and saying:
O Lord God, who didst count these thy servants worthy of deserving the forgiveness of sins by the laver of regeneration, (make them worthy to be filled with) Thy Holy Spirit and send upon them Thy grace, that they may serve Thee according to Thy will: (for) to Thee (is) the glory, to the Father and to the Son with the Holy Ghost in the holy Church, both now (and ever) and world without end. Amen
After this pouring the consecrated oil from his hand and laying his hand on his head, he shall say:
I anoint thee with holy oil in God the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Ghost.
And sealing him on the forehead, he shall give him the kiss (of peace) and say:
The Lord be with you.
And he who has been sealed shall say:
And with thy spirit.
And so shall he do to each one severally. [Dix, op. cit., p. 39.]
Dr. Lampe confesses that if this is the authentic text of the Apostolic Tradition, “we should have to conclude that the treatise ... actually affords early evidence of a divorce in orthodox circles of Spirit-baptism from water-baptism.” [Op. cit., p. 138.] He avoids this conclusion, however, by emphasizing that the Latin version of the Apostolic Tradition contained in the Verona MS.LV(53) does not contain the words, “Make them worthy to be filled with”, in the bishop’s prayer. This version suits his argument admirably for it “appears to refer the gift of the Spirit to what has already taken place in the water-baptism rather than to what is going to happen in the ‘confirmation’”. [Op. cit., p. 136.] Hence the value of the Apostolic Tradition in this discussion must depend on our answer to a problem of textual criticism. Dix’s view was that the Latin version of the prayer is corrupt, the words in question having been omitted, and he based his reconstruction of the original on five other versions, viz.: T, Arab., Ethiop., Boh., and K, all of which agree in reading, “Make them worthy to be filled with thy Holy Spirit.” Perhaps more may be said in support of Dix than is allowed by Dr. Lampe, for the Syriac Testament of Our Lord (T) and the Arabic Canons of Hippolytus (K) are both translations of Greek adaptations of Hippolytus’ treatise, while the extant Ethiopic and Boharic versions are based on a Sahidic text. It is probable, therefore, that these versions are all independent of the Verona MS., which Dr. Lampe dates as “the late fifth or early sixth century”. At least one of them, the Ethiopic, may be dated c. 500 A.D. There is some justification for Fr. Crehan’s verdict that “The agreement of the Arian fragments with the Ethiopic version of Hippolytus is too remarkable to have been the result of later deliberate adaptation.”
If the other versions are correct some explanation must be given to account for the omission in the Latin version. It is unlikely that the Latin text was deliberately altered; the corruption must then have occurred accidently. Dr. Lampe apparently considers that he has disposed of Dix’s suggestion of corruption by saying that the Latin text of the Verona palimpsest shows no sign of any major dislocation at this point, nor of any lacuna, and that the manuscript, “though admittedly difficult to read”, is reasonably clear. But many students of early manuscripts must feel that Dr. Lampe has not sufficiently exhausted all the possibilities before rejecting the view that the Latin text is corrupt.
The Verona text is not the original translation from the Greek of Hippolytus, but merely a copy, or – more likely – a copy of a copy of the original translation. Eusebius (Vit. Constant., iv. 36) says that the Emperor Constantine ordered fifty copies of the Scriptures to be made for use in the churches of his new capital. No doubt copies were made of the original Latin translation of Hippolytus. The Verona MS. could be a copy of one of those earlier copies in which a line had accidentally been omitted. C. H. Turner considered that the original translation into Latin was made c. 420–30 A.D., while Dix pointed out that “The philological peculiarities of the Latin have suggested to most experts in Patristic Latinity that the translation from the Greek was made about the time of St. Ambrose.” It is probable, therefore, that at least a century separates the Verona text from the original translation, during which it is reasonable to believe that several copies of the Latin Translation may have been made. A corruption might easily have occurred in an earlier Latin version, [F. G. Kenyon observes that “No two manuscripts of the Old Latin agree with any closeness with one another” (The Texual Criticism of the New Testament, 1912, pp. 356f). Was it perhaps easier for scribes to err in copying Latin?] through the mutilation of some words at the bottom of a column, or the accidental omission of a line. The fact that the Verona text is reasonably clear, does not, therefore, rule out the possibility of corruption by an earlier copyist. Nor does it exclude the possibility that the scribe who wrote the Verona MS. may himself have omitted a line from the MS. which he was copying, even if that MS. was the original Latin translation.
Dr. Lampe has indeed considered the possibility that some words such as dignos fac eos repletionis may have been accidentally omitted if two consecutive lines of the text began with -tionis, and the first dropped out accidentally, thus:
Qui dignos fecisti eos remissionem mere- (34 letters)
ri peccatorum per lavacrum regenera- (31 letters)
tionis dignos fac eos reple- (23 letters)
tionis spiritus sancti; inmitte in eos tuam grati- (41 letters
He rejects this hypothesis, however, because the omission of the clause ought to have left et standing before inmitte, and because the line “tionis ... reple” is “unnaturally short.” But the omission of et could be the work of a redactor; such corrections were often made by scribes copying manuscripts. His second objection loses much of its weight when we remember that Codex Bezae (VIth cent.), which has been attributed to “a scribe whose native language was Latin”, [F. G. Kenyon, op. cit., p. 92.] contains lines varying in length between 14 and 39 letters per line in the Greek version, and from 15 to 41 letters per line in the Latin version. It is unusual to find such great variation in the number of letters per line in early manuscripts, but in the case of the Codex Bezae “The writing on each page occupies a single column, but is not written in continuous paragraphs but in kola, or short clauses divided according to the sense; in this way the corresponding words in the two languages are kept strictly parallel.” [F. G. Kenyon, op. cit., p. 90.] The translator of the Apostolic Tradition into Latin might have followed the same principle with the object of making the Latin version correspond line by line with the Greek original. The most serious objection to Dr. Lampe’s “reconstruction” is the improbability of the scribe or translator ending a short line with an uncompleted word such as reple-. In the Codex Bezae the scribe generally ended each line with a complete word, even if he had to continue into the margin in order to do so.
The earliest extant fourth century Uncial manuscripts, however, are more generally written in narrow columns of three or four columns to the page, while in the fifth and sixth century “the writing grows larger and the columns broader, so that there are not more than two to a page, and sometimes only one”. [Ibid., p. 50.] The narrowest columns in the earliest manuscripts have an average of 12–14 letters per line, though others such as the Rylands Fragment of St. John (P. Ryl. Gk.457), dated c. 150 A.D. or earlier, has single columns to the page with lines of 29–35 letters; P. Oxy. 208: 1781, a third century papyrus of St. John, has an average of 27 letters to the line; while the Codex Alexandrinus (Vth cent.) has an average of some 22 letters per line. The early Uncial manuscripts were written in capital letters without spaces between the words, and usually little variation in the length of the lines (e.g., the Codex Bobiensis, a fifth or sixth century Latin manuscript in rough Uncials, has in ten consecutive lines 25, 27, 26, 23, 26, 18, 28, 24, 22, and 27 letters respectively). Hence, the original Latin translation of the Apostolic Tradition might well have been written thus:
EPISCOPUSUEROMANUILLISINPON- (27 letters)
ENSINUOCETDICENS:DNEDSQUI (24 letters)
DIGNOSFECISTIEOSREMISSION- (25 letters)
EMMERERIPECCATORUMPER (21 letters)
LAUACRUM REGENERATIONIS (22 letters)
DIGNOSFACEOSREPLETIONIS (23 letters)
SPUSSCIINMITTEINEOSTUAM (23 letters)
GRATIAMUTTIBISERUIANT (21 letters)
SECUNDUMUOLUNTATEMTUAM (22 letters)
QUONIAMTIBIESTGLORIAPATRI... (25 letters)
It is not improbable that a scribe might have omitted the second line commencing “DIGNOS ...” because it is so similar to the earlier line with the same beginning, or more likely because it has the same ending as the previous line, viz: “-TIONIS”. This kind of error arising from the similarity of adjoining words, “which led the scribe’s eye to slip from one to the other and so omit the intervening words” is “in one form or another a very common one, and has to be borne in mind constantly in the criticism of manuscripts”. [Kenyon, op. cit., pp. 8f. In the original proofs of this article the opening lines of this paragraph read: “The earliest extant fourth century Uncial manuscripts, however, are more generally written in narrow columns of three or four columns in the earliest manuscripts have an average of 12–14 letters ...” – a perfect modern example of homoioteleuton, due to the fact that in copying the author’s typescript, the printer’s eye slipped from the second occurrence of the word “columns” to its fourth occurrence (three lines lower down in the typescript) and thence continued with “in the earliest manuscripts ...”. The fact that such an error also escaped the notice of the printer’s proof-reader illustrates how easily such errors can occur, and reinforces the author’s suggestion that the omission in the Verona MS. may be due to hommoteleuion.] It will be noted that our above reconstruction gives lines with no greater variation than 21–27 letters per line. Nor can any objection be raised to this hypothesis on the ground that the lines do not all end with complete words, for in the earlier manuscripts it is quite common to find words broken at the end of lines. [The Rylands Fragment of St. John indicates that 7 out of 14 lines ended, with incomplete words. An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel, Ed. C. H. Roberts, p. 28.] A study of manuscripts reveals, as we should expect, that a line ending with an incomplete word is generally one of the longest lines in the column. This is the case in the Rylands Fragment and in most early manuscripts, the Codex Bezae being one of the few exceptions where the margin is used to complete words. Even Dr. Lampe’s suggestion if set down as it would appear in an early Uncial manuscript with narrow columns in which the longest line contains 23 letters (thereby accounting for the break in reple - tionis) would look like this:
If due regard is paid to the general character of early manuscripts it must be admitted that either of the above reconstructions is extremely probable, and gives a perfectly clear explanation of the omission in the Verona MS. as being due to homoioteleuton. But lest there be any doubt about such a possibility, yet another reconstruction is possible which seems to remove the hypothesis from the realm of mere conjecture, viz:
CULASAECULORUM AMEN (18)
In some respects this reconstruction may be nearer to the original than either of the other two alternatives, since it has less variation in the length of the lines, and it would be extremely easy for the scribe as he was finishing the word regenerationis to let his eye slip down to the tionis on the line immediately below and thence proceed to write “SPUSSCI ...”, thereby omitting dignos fac eos repletionis, “make them worthy to be filled with”.
Discussing the distinction between “conjectural emendation, which must be utterly discarded” and the “just use of internal evidence”, Dr. Scrivener felt that the latter was justified “where external evidence is evenly, or at any rate not very unevenly balanced”. [Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 1883, p. 492.] Discussing rules of internal evidence “alike applicable to all subjects of literary investigation”, he mentions Griesbach’s preference for “the briefer reading”, but qualifies his own acceptance of that principle by saying: “Yet it is just as true that words and clauses are sometimes willfully omitted for the sake of removing apparent difficulties, and that the negligent loss of whole passages through homoioteleuton is common to manuscripts of every age and character. On the whole,” he concludes, “the indiscriminate rejection of portions of the text regarded as supplementary, on the evidence of but a few authorities, must be viewed with considerable distrust and suspicion.” The fact that the Verona MS. is the only authority which omits “makes them worthy to be filled with”. against the unanimous testimony of T.Ar.E.Boh.K. for its inclusion, the facility with which it can be demonstrated that the Latin omission may be due to homoioteleuton, and the extreme difficulty of accounting for the agreement of T.Ar.E.Boh.K. if the Latin be regarded as the true text, weigh heavily in favour of the retention of “make them worthy to be filled with” as part of Hippolytus’ text. A study of Hippolytus’ other writings also supports the longer text against the Verona MS., and caused even Dr. Lampe to admit that “On the whole, it is probably fair to say that Hippolytus’ own conception of the matter stands not far distant from that of the oriental versions of the Apostolic Tradition”. [Op. cit., p. 147.] What is more natural than that Hippolytus’ own views had been derived from the apostolic tradition which he had received? On one point at least Dr. Lampe concurs with Dix, namely, “that there is no question of Hippolytus himself being an innovator or composing” the Apostolic Tradition “out of his own imagination. It is not a new use, introduced for the first time by its author.” Hence, if our hypothesis of homoioteleuton in the Latin version be accepted, the Apostolic Tradition must be accepted as a very early witness to the association of the Holy Spirit with the Laying on of Hands by the bishop as an integral part of early rites of Christian Initiation.
We need not concern ourselves in the present article with the Apocryphal Acts, which are of uncertain date and “essentially popular and untheological”. But Justin Martyr’s account of Baptism is of such importance that Dr. Lampe’s version of it cannot be allowed to pass without comment. [Op. cit., pp. 109f.] Surely he is indulging in a little eisegesis when he says that Justin rests the authority for Baptism on John 3:5: “Expect a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”? If too much emphasis has sometimes been placed on Justin’s alleged silence concerning Confirmation, perhaps too little notice has been taken of his silence concerning the Holy Spirit in his account of Baptism and its effects. Justin describes how the candidates for Baptism “are taught to pray, and beg God with fasting, to grant them forgiveness of their former sins; and we pray and fast with them. Then we bring them where there is water; and after the same manner of regeneration as we also were regenerated ourselves, they are regenerated; for in the Name of God, the Father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, they then receive the washing of water: for, indeed, Christ also said, Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And that it is impossible for those who are once born to enter into their mothers’ womb, is plain to all.” [Apol. 61.] It is obvious that Justin here associates the water with forgiveness and regeneration, and loosely cites John 3:3 and alludes to 3:4 merely with reference to regeneration. Apart from the reference to the Threefold Name, he does not mention the Holy Spirit. If he had wished to suggest that baptism in water was “the sacramental medium of the gift of the Spirit”, he would surely have mentioned John 3:5. When he goes on to state the “reason from the Apostles for so doing”, he gives the objects of baptism as being “that we might not remain the children of necessity and ignorance, but of choice, and of knowledge; and that we might obtain remission of the sins we had formerly committed; in the water, there is called over him who chooses the new birth, and repents of his sins, the name of God the Father ... and in the name of Jesus Christ, ... ; and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who foretold, by the Prophets, all these things about Jesus; does he who is enlightened receive his washing.” Justin’s silence concerning any gift of the Holy Spirit as an effect of baptism in water cannot be ignored. True, in arguing against the necessity for circumcision, he says, “What need have I of that baptism, who have been baptized with Holy Spirit?”, [Dial. 29.] but Professor Ratcliff has satisfactorily shown [Theology, Vol. LI., No. 334, April 1948, pp. 135–9.] that this is to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally, and does not, therefore, contradict his earlier account. Hence Justin’s writings, if they do not contain explicit references to Confirmation, neither do they explicitly associate the gift of the Spirit with baptism in water. At the same time, it will be observed that Justin’s account of baptism contains nothing inconsistent with the account given in the Apostolic Tradition. That Justin regarded the Baptism of Jesus as typical of the Christian sacrament Dr. Lampe does not deny, but he emphasizes that Justin “does not actually say so”. Neither does Justin actually say that the gift of the Spirit is received through baptism in water, though Dr. Lampe would like us to infer that such was Justin’s view. In the case of Justin the argumentum e silentio is obviously a two-edged sword which can be used quite effectively against Dr. Lampe’s main thesis.
Discussing the significance of the Baptism of Jesus, Jeremy Taylor observed, “There are some who from this story would infer the descent of the Holy Ghost after Christ’s baptism not to signify that confirmation was to be a distinct rite from baptism, but a part of it, – yet such a part as gives fullness and consummation to it”, but he rejected this view on the ground that reason and the context are both against it, “because the Holy Ghost was not given by John’s baptism; that was reserved to be one of Christ’s glories; who also, when by His disciples He baptized many, did not give them the Holy Ghost; and when He commanded His apostles to baptize all nations, did not at that time so much as promise the Holy Ghost: He was promised distinctly and given by another ministration.” [“Discourse on Confirmation”, in Heber’s Works, Vol. XI, p. 236 (1839).] John 4:1, 2, here referred to, is certainly difficult to reconcile with the view that in the Apostolic Age the Holy Ghost was associated with Baptism without Imposition of Hands. If we exclude the events of the Day of Pentecost and the case of Cornelius and his household (which has been called “the Pentecost of the Gentiles”, and is accepted on all sides as being “exceptional”), there is no explicit evidence in the Acts of the Apostles to indicate that the Holy Ghost was normally given in baptism without the Imposition of Hands. There is no explicit mention of the Laying on of Hands in the cases of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:39), Lydia (16:14f.), the Philippian gaoler (16:33), or Crispus and the Corinthians (18:8), but neither is there in any of these cases the slightest suggestion that baptism conferred on them the gift of the Holy Ghost. It has been pointed out by more than one writer that there are several passages in Acts which draw a contrast between John’s baptism with water and Christian baptism with the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5; 11:15, 16), while other passages (8:16; 19:5) regard baptism as a mere water rite in contrast with the gift of the Spirit received through the Laying on of Hands. Some expositors place these passages in two different categories, but for our present purpose we need only observe that all these passages have one thing in common, viz., they do not associate the Holy Spirit explicitly with baptism in water. In the case of Paul, too, it should be noted that the Holy Ghost is not explicitly associated with his baptism (9:18), and when he recounted his experience to the people of Jerusalem he did not associate his baptism with the gift of the Holy Ghost but with the washing away of his sins (22:16). Ananias was sent to Paul that he might receive his sight through the Laying on of Hands (9:12), and he told Paul that he had been sent “that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost”. The use of “fill” is reminiscent of the experience of the other Apostles on the Day of Pentecost when they too “were filled with the Holy Ghost” (2:4) without any reference to baptism in water. Obviously the case is exceptional and not to be taken as a normal case of baptism. It is clear that Paul received both baptism and Laying on of Hands, and if the Holy Ghost is to be directly associated with either, all the evidence points to his association with the healing through the Laying on of Hands. There remains only the events of the Day of Pentecost which can scarcely be regarded as conclusive evidence that baptism was believed to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost without the Laying on of Hands. There is no indication that Peter and John were doing anything new in Samaria (8:14ff., the passage is considered more fully below), and there were twelve apostles present who could have conferred the Holy Ghost upon the new converts by Imposition of Hands.
In our consideration of Justin Martyr and the Acts of the Apostles we have deliberately emphasized the paucity of explicit statements associating the Holy Spirit with baptism in water, in order to illustrate and emphasize the dangers inherent in the use of the argumentum e silentio. That argument has often been used to deprive Confirmation of any real significance or apostolic authority. As we have seen, it could also be used virtually to deprive baptism in water of any real significance or association with the Holy Spirit. The Convocation Committees pointed out that “there are only three passages which closely connect the Laying-on-of-hands with Baptism, Acts 8:14–17 and 19:1–6, and Hebrews 6:2”. [Baptism and Confirmation To-day, 1955, p. 38.] But we notice that they mention only two passages which explicitly associate the Holy Spirit with baptism, viz., Acts 2:38 and 1 Cor. 12:13. [Op. cit., p. 36.] It might justifiably be argued, therefore, that there is as much explicit evidence for deducing that Imposition of Hands was the normal concomitant of baptism as there is for associating the Holy Spirit with Christian baptism. There is no explicit evidence that the Ethiopian eunuch, Lydia, the Philippian gaoler, or Crispus and the Corinthians did not in fact receive the Holy Ghost. True, but if we are to use the argumentum e silentio consistently it must also be admitted that neither is there any evidence that they did not also receive the Laying on of Hands (an apostle was present in at least three of those cases). Dr. Lampe appears to be very inconsistent in his use of the argumentum e silentio. On the one hand, he regards the lack of explicit evidence in the cases of Lydia, Crispus and the Corinthians, and even Apollos, as no evidence that they did not receive the Spirit, but a few lines later [Op. cit., p. 67.] he regards Paul’s silence concerning the Laying on of Hands in his teaching on Baptism as an “obvious objection” to the view that Confirmation was practiced in the Apostolic Church as a regular part of the initiation ceremony. Here may it be said in passing that although St. Paul associates the Holy Spirit with baptism but does not mention the Laying on of Hands explicitly, he frequently speaks of “receiving the Spirit” and uses the same words which St. Luke uses to describe the reception of the Spirit which followed the Laying on of Hands (Acts 8:17; cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 11:4). W. F. Flemington suggests: “Perhaps the true explanation of St. Paul’s silence about the Laying on of Hands is to be found in the fact that to him the symbolism of immersion was far more expressive of the particular teaching he desired to emphasize. The mention of the Laying on of Hands in Hebrews 6:2, side by side with ‘teachings about baptisms’, in a list of Christian ‘fundamentals’, would seem to confirm the view that in the first century A.D. the Laying on of Hands was generally understood to be a concomitant of baptism.” [The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism. p. 44n.] St. Paul’s action in Acts 19:1–7 corroborates this view, which is more convincing than the suggestion that on that occasion he was merely correcting an “irregularity”. [As suggested by J. E. L. Oulton, Pamphlet on Confirmation, A.P.C.K., p. 8.] Dr. Lampe thinks it is surprising that St. Paul does not mention Laying on of Hands in his list of ministerial charismata in 1 Corinthians 12:4–10. But neither does he mention Ordination, Baptism, or the Eucharist; he seems to be more concerned with the diversities of gifts rather than the means by which the gifts of the Spirit are received. He does, however, ask: “Are all apostles?” (12:29), and the context clearly suggests that he meant that not everyone had the same gifts or powers as had apostles (e.g., the power of conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost through the Laying on of Hands, Acts 8:18, cf. 2 Tim. 1:6).
In the Introduction of his Discourse on Confirmation Jeremy Taylor describes the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of regeneration in baptism, of renovation in repentance; the Spirit of love, and the Spirit of holy fear; the Searcher of the hearts, and the Spirit of wisdom, and the Spirit of Prayer.... It is the same Spirit working divers operations. For He is all this now reckoned, and He is everything else that is the principle of good unto us; He is the beginning and the progression, the consummation and the perfection of us all: and yet every work of His is perfect in its kind ... The Spirit moved a little upon the waters of baptism, and gave us the principles of life; but in confirmation He makes us able to move ourselves. In the first He is the Spirit of life; but in this he is the Spirit of strength and motion.” [Works, Vol. XI, pp. 230f.] The 1948 Lambeth Conference affirmed that “the dissociation of the Holy Spirit’s operation from any part of [Christian] Initiation is strongly to be deprecated, as is also the attempt to measure His operation quantitatively”, [Report, p. 110.] and this view has been endorsed by the Joint Committees of the Convocations of Canterbury and York. [Baptism and Confirmation To-day, 1955, p. 35.] As the Giver of Life He cannot be dissociated from our regeneration, which is the beginning of our New Life in Christ, and in the Prayer Book rite we are fully justified, therefore, in praying: “Give Thy Holy Spirit to this infant that he may be born again.” On the other hand, as the Archbishops’ Theological Commission pointed out in 1948, “There is no language in the Baptismal Service for Infants which explicitly affirms that the gift of the Holy Ghost, apart from His regenerative activity, is conveyed through baptism itself.” [The Theology of Christian Initiation, 1948, p. 16.] It is impossible to justify the extreme contrast between “water-baptism” and “Spirit-baptism”, which has been pressed too far by many modern writers. Much of the confusion and many of the wrong conclusions have sprung from a misguided use of the argumentum e silentio. Acknowledgement of the Spirit’s regenerative activity in baptism does not require a denial of his Fullness being conferred in confirmation through the Laying on of Hands. We have seen that there is good reason to accept Dix’s version of the Bishop’s prayer in the Apostolic Tradition, which associates baptism with the “forgiveness of sins by the laver of regeneration” and proceeds to pray that the newly-baptized may be made “worthy to be filled with thy Holy Spirit” (Cf. Acts 2:4, 9:17), followed by the Imposition of Hands by the bishop.
Even if the evidence of Hippolytus is accepted, however, we must still enquire whether the Laying on of Hands is merely a “subsidiary ceremony” which became attached to baptism in the second century, or does it derive from the apostles as the normal concomitant of baptism in the first century? At one time Acts 8:5–19 and 19:1–7 would have been accepted as conclusive evidence on this point, but more recently it has been suggested that these passages represent exceptional rather than general procedure in the Apostolic Age. But before we examine some modern expositions of Acts 8 and 19 may we draw attention to Jeremy Taylor’s exposition of Hebrews 6:1, 2, which has not received as much consideration as it merits. “Here”, he says, “are six fundamental points of St. Paul’s catechism, which he laid as the foundation or the beginning of the institution of the Christian Church; and amongst these imposition of hands is reckoned as part of the foundation, and therefore they who deny it dig up foundations. True, the imposition of hands signifies confirmation, ordination, absolution, visitation of the sick, blessing of single persons (as Christ did the children brought to Him), and blessing marriages. Now the last three are not pretended to be any part of this foundation; neither reason, authority, nor the nature of the thing, suffers any such pretension: the question then is between the first three. Now it cannot mean absolution of penitents, for there is no evidence that the Apostles used that ceremony in their absolutions, and since baptism is one of the principal parts of the foundation, they needed no absolution but baptismal, which is ‘for the remission of sins’. Nor can it mean ordination, because the Apostle says he is going to leave the foundation, and ‘go on to perfection’, that is, to higher mysteries. Now in rituals, of which he speaks, there is none higher than ordination. Furthermore, ‘laying on of hands’ in the context follows immediately upon baptism, and in the very next words of his discourse he does enumerate and apportion to baptism and confirmation their proper and proportioned effects: to baptism, illumination, according to the perpetual style of the Church of God, calling baptism photismon – ‘an enlightening’; and to confirmation he reckons ‘tasting the heavenly gift’, and ‘being made partakers of the Holy Ghost’, by the thing signified declaring the sign, and by the mystery the rite.” Taylor concludes his exposition by saying: “He calls it ‘the doctrine of baptisms and laying on of hands’: by which it does not only appear to be a lasting ministry, because no part of the Christian doctrine could be changed or abolished: but hence also it appears to be of Divine institution. For if it were not, St. Paul had been guilty of that which our blessed Saviour reproves in the Scribes and Pharisees, and should have ‘taught for doctrines the commandments of men’. Which, because it cannot be supposed, it must follow that this doctrine of confirmation or imposition of hands is apostolical and Divine. The argument is clear, and not easy to be reproved.: [Works, Vol. XI, pp. 249ff.] This exposition is very relevant to present attempts to deprive confirmation of any Scriptural authority, and is in no way weakened by the fact that modern scholars may not agree, that St. Paul is the author of Hebrews. Neither Dr. Lampe nor Dr. Oulton attempt to expound the passage with any confidence. The former finds it “hard to understand”, and with obvious uncertainty suggests “we may perhaps suppose that the ceremony of fellowship and identification in the apostolic task has come to be applied to ordinary converts...” [Op. cit., p. 77.] Dr. Oulton dismisses it in a sentence by saying: “We cannot limit the laying on of hands mentioned in Hebrews 6:2, to any one rite known to us.” [Op. cit., p. 7.] Until more convincing evidence is forthcoming to prove that the reference to Laying on of Hands in Hebrews 6:2 cannot mean what we now know as confirmation, we are not unduly perturbed by the fact that in some other passages baptism is mentioned without any explicit allusion to Laying on of Hands.
Undoubtedly, as Dr. Lampe says, “the imposition of hands in Acts and Hebrews calls for further study”. [J.T.S., Vol. VI, Pt. 1, April 1955, p. 115.] But if there are difficulties in the traditional interpretation of Acts 8:4–19, 19:1–7, and Hebrews 6:1, 2, which sees in these passages the apostolic precedents for confirmation, the alternative interpretations advanced by modern writers also leave many anomalies and questions unanswered. Dr. Lampe, for instance, in attempting to explain why Philip’s converts had not received the Spirit in their baptism, is driven to the terrible expedient of suggesting that until Philip’s action was endorsed by the leaders of the Church, “the gift of the Spirit which was received through membership of the Spirit-possessed community was withheld”. [Op. cit., p. 70.] If, as Dr. Lampe believes, the gift of the Holy Ghost was normally received through baptism without the Laying on of Hands, are we to infer that in “an unprecedented situation” the unworthiness, ignorance, or excessive zeal of the minister of baptism may hinder the effect of the sacrament? Has any man power to withhold the gifts of God? It can hardly be suggested that the Holy Spirit disapproved of Philip’s action, for, as Dr. Lampe says, the Spirit in Samaria “confirms the word of God with signs and wonders” [Op. cit., p. 74.] (Acts 8:6), which surely indicates the Spirit’s approval. How can this approval be reconciled with the suggestion that the Holy Spirit was withheld from Philip’s converts “until the fact had been demonstrated that the leaders of the Church were in full accord with Philip”? According to Acts 1:8 our Lord’s last words to the disciples were: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria ...”. Could anyone knowing of those words be in any doubt about the propriety of admitting Samaritans into the Church? It is inconceivable that Philip should not have heard of Jesus’ last words: in all probability his last words, like the last words of many outstanding personalities, were most widely discussed and reported in the early Church. It may indeed have been those words of our Lord which inspired Philip to go on his mission to Samaria. If he told the Samaritans of the words of Jesus, as is most probable since they would be in the best possible justification for his preaching to them and baptizing them, can they have been in any doubt as to whether they should be accepted into the Church? Dr. Lampe mentions Barnabas’ visit to Antioch as a parallel to the Apostles’ visit to Samaria, but there is no mention of the Laying on of Hands by Barnabas, which is surely remarkable if the imposition of hands was used in the Apostolic period as “a token of fellowship and solidarity”. The suggestion that some kind of “ordination” is implied in Acts 8:14–17 and 19:6 has met with so little support that it need not be discussed further.
Dr. Oulton suggests that Acts 8:4–17 describes “a new departure in the Church” inasmuch as Samaritans were for the first time baptized and that the visit of the Apostles was necessary because Philip “in preaching and baptizing went beyond his ordained commission”. [Op. cit., p. 7.] He considers that the passage “does not assert that the Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit in baptism”, and he finds parallels between Acts 2:41–7 and 8:5–13 which indicate “a life in the Spirit” among the Samaritans prior to the visit of the apostles. [Op. cit., p. 16.] But the fact that Philip, immediately after the Samaritan episode, continued to preach (8:35, 40) and to baptize (8:38) is surely fatal to Dr. Oulton’s suggestion that Philip in Samaria “went beyond his commission”. If he had indeed exceeded his commission we should expect the apostles would have taken some steps to prevent the repetition of such an error either by reprimanding Philip or by giving him a fuller commission. There is no evidence that either was done, and Philip cannot have been conscious of having committed any error or he would not have continued to preach and to baptize. The chapter ends by informing us that Philip “preached in all the cities until he came to Caesarea”, that is, he returned to work in Samaria – a further indication that he cannot have been conscious of having exceeded his commission. Is there any other evidence from the history of the early Church to support Dr. Oulton’s view that in Acts 8 and 19 “the manifest tokens of the Holy Spirit are granted in order to demonstrate that an irregularity had been set to rights”? In the absence of corroborative evidence, the traditional interpretation of these passages seems preferable, since it has the support of Hebrews 6 and the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus and is not explicitly contradicted by any other passage in the New Testament. Dr. Oulton’s attempt to show that the Samaritan converts had received the Spirit before the visit of Peter and John is unconvincing. Not only is it at variance with Acts 8:15f., but his parallels between 2:41–7 and 8:5–13 are manifestly inconclusive evidence. Reason and the context both suggest that the “joy” mentioned (8:8, cp. 12:14) are the people’s first and natural reaction to the signs and miracles of healing wrought by Philip, who had already been endowed with the Spirit, as Dr. Lampe points out. The baptisms followed the performance of the signs according to the order of events in the text (8:12). There is no evidence that anyone other than Philip performed signs and wonders, or that signs followed the baptisms (had such been the case the Laying on of Hands would have been superfluous). The fact that homothumadon (“with one accord”) is often used in. Acts of hostile, anti-Christian Jews and Gentiles (7:57; 12:20; 18:12; 19:29) renders its occurrence in 8. 6 inconclusive as evidence of “life in the Spirit”. Finally, whereas the three thousand who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost “continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine” (2:41, 42, 46), Acts 8:13 does not refer to all the new converts at Samaria but only states that Simon Magus “continued steadfastly” with Philip, and neither the context nor his subsequent conduct suggest that his steadfastness was motivated by disinterested devotion, or a necessary indication of “life in the Spirit”.
On the whole, therefore, acceptance of the traditional interpretation of Acts 8:14–17 and 19:1–7 is preferable and more easily justified than the above-mentioned theories. Perhaps the opponents of the traditional view have laid too much stress on the alleged silence of St. Paul, and the Verona text of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, and have paid too little attention to the significance of Hebrews 6:1, 2.
Appendix C – Modern Cosmology And Creation
J. H. Templeton
Formerly it was theology which was responsible for directing attention to the subject of creation; the Christian doctrine of a single world-order that began at a particular point in the past, and will end at some future date has a rather special place in the history of cosmological speculation. At present the origin and destiny of the universe is being widely discussed in intelligent circles, but now it is science that is raising the question. The aim of this note is to emphasize what creation properly means, and then to look briefly at the latest theories of the cosmologists.
The root idea in the conception of creation in the Christian sense is that of dependence, the resting of the visible, temporal order on the invisible, eternal order. It means that nothing whatever other than God has existence by itself and in its own right. All that is and wherever it is owes its being to the divine will and sustaining presence. A thing that existed by itself, some brute entity that stood in no relation to anything else, would not be a creature; creaturehood points to an external cause of existence. There is no better way of expressing the dependence of the world on God than the standard biblical one, in both Old and New Testaments, of attributing it to the outgoing of the Mind of God in the utterance of His Word. Science cannot get behind things at the point of origin and analyze the nature of the contact between the visible and the invisible; it has no formula for creation. Its business is to take Nature as a going concern, to investigate its movements and changes, and discover the laws determining them. Cosmology deals with things in their furthest range; it studies the nature and structure of the entire universe, including the question of its origin and final issue, in so far as this is implied by a knowledge of how Nature actually works.
As understood today cosmology is among the youngest of the sciences, and may be said to have begun in 1917 with the publication of some notes by Einstein on the bearing on cosmology of his General Theory of Relativity. Since then, the new methods and techniques developed by astronomical investigation have greatly increased the date for a modern view of the universe; but it will be readily appreciated that recent discoveries are variously explained and interpreted. At the moment several questions of first-rate importance for cosmology are under vigorous discussion and we shall have to await their settlement. With this in mind, what has the present trend in cosmological theory to say on the Christian view of a world beginning and ending with time? Thirty years ago Sir James Jeans compared the universe to a clock that was running down, but which must once have been wound up in some mysterious way, and Eddington held that the principle on which this running-down movement was taking place, the Second Law of Thermo-dynamics (the decreasing availability of energy), was so important that if any fact contrary to it were established, the whole system of knowledge would be upset. It was on the strength of this Law of Entropy, as the Second Law of Thermodynamics is sometimes called, that Bertrand Russell made his famous prediction that the final result “towards which the whole creation moves” is a universe in ruins enveloped in eternal darkness.
But now the advocates of the New Cosmology, of whom Professor Hoyle is the best known, believe that this catastrophe will be averted, not by any violation of the Law of Entropy in the behaviour of existing matter, but by the appearance of new matter. According to their “steady-state” theory, the loss of energy in the universe is counterbalanced by the coming of new matter which goes into the formation of new stars and galaxies, so that the general features of the cosmos are preserved. This process has always been going on; the universe is for ever the same, without beginning or end.
The most recent researches carried out at the Mullard Observatory at Cambridge under Professor Martin Ryle, and employing the method of radio-astronomy, throw doubt on the “steady-state” hypothesis. This work consists of recording radiation signals from outer space which have been travelling towards the earth for ages. When the message of these signals is interpreted, they tell something about cosmic conditions before there was ever an eye to behold the starry heavens above. If the “steady-state” theory is true, if the source of these signals, the radio-active matter distributed throughout space, is always the same, then their record should present a regular picture; but it does not; there is a diminution of the signals, like the petering out of the flakes towards the end of a snowshower. Of course, where such an immense recession into time in involved, and so little can be done in a short period in tabulating results, definite conclusions cannot be expected; but the indications there are show a falling off in the amount of signals being received, which would suggest a failure in the source. Convincing support for the “steady-state” view is wanting; there is no real reason for thinking that the universe has eluded the sentence imposed by the Law of Entropy, which means that the most certain element in the scientific outlook is the end of the world.
Jeans postulated that the original state of things was a colossal volume of space suffused with radiation of extremely low density, while the hypothesis favoured today, the Abbè Lemaitre’s, is the exact opposite of this. He assumes that in the beginning all the matter of the universe, at an inconceivably high density, was packed into a comparatively small space: time and events began with the violent disintegration of this mass. Eddington was unable to reconcile himself to the idea that this “Big Bang” was the absolute beginning; however plausible it seemed as an explanation of an expanding universe, he could not help feeling that something very different preceded it; matter must have reached this explosive state by a less spectacular process, although he had no notion of what it was. The diminution observed in the later radio signals compared with the earlier ones may be due to their greater remoteness from the primal cosmic eruption.
Whether the eventual conclusion of science is that the universe had a beginning and will come to an end, or that it is everlasting, it has nothing to do with the real meaning of creation, the world’s dependent relation to God. Some great Christian thinkers have been attracted by the idea that the course of the world is endless. So long as it was thought of as created and sustained by God the question of its duration was indifferent, or at least not so important, and the belief in a limited time process was accepted as part of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, it must also be recognized that the doctrine of a universe having a beginning and an end has close ties with the conviction which has supported the faith of Israel in times of testing such as no other people has undergone – that history has a purpose the substance of which is the giving and fulfillment of the divine promises. Promise and fulfillment are the termini of a limited historical scheme, and since the raison d’etre of the world is to provide the scene for the working out of this scheme, it too is limited. This is not the place to attempt tracing the influence of this conception on Jewish-Christian tradition; but it will be a matter of considerable interest to see if science confirms the cosmology which went with it.
The following books are recommended for further reading with the reminder that the state of knowledge in the department of cosmology is fluid at the moment; but it is hoped that the answers to some important problems will be forthcoming within the next decade or so.
F. Hoyle: The Nature Of The Universe.
A. C. B. Lovell: The Individual And The Universe.
W. de Sitter: Kosmos.
E. Whittaker: The Beginning And End Of The World.
E. Whittaker: Space And Spirit.
Rival Theories Of Cosmology (A discussion by H. Bondi, B. Bonnor, R. A. Lyttleton, and G. J. Whitrow).
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