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which had been implicitly held by Christians from the beginning. In this way, in the “Nicene" Creed and the doctrinal decisions of the first four General Councils, the fundamental articles of the faith were once for all defined, and since then the Church has never varied in her expression of them.
The formularies of faith belonging to the sixteenth century are of a very different character. Instead of the crisp, short summaries of the main articles of Christian belief, drawn up in the form of creeds, we are confronted with verbose and lengthy “ Confessions," in the form of Articles, bristling with controversial points, and often negative rather than positive, denouncing and protesting against some supposed error, but failing to set forth in any systematic form the definite positive truth to be held on the subject. The religious upheaval of the time had let loose a spirit of universal questioning. · Authority was widely discarded ; and while the fundamental articles of the faith were once more passed in review men did not rest content with the consideration of these, but examined afresh the whole circle of Christian doctrine, and threw doubts on matters only remotely bearing upon the faith once for all committed to the saints. Moreover, fresh complications arose from the confusion in which the question of the duties and rights of the civil power was entangled. In an age when the foundations of the system on which society had rested for centuries were seriously shaken, such subjects as the right of the magistrate to interfere with the belief of the individual, and the limits of his authority over conscience, naturally assumed a prominence hitherto unknown. Thus it became necessary for all bodies of Christians to state their position on topics which might otherwise have remained undefined; and there sprang into existence that bewildering mass of elaborate confessions of faith, extending to subjects which belong to the borderland between religion and politics, which forms one of the special characteristics of this century. If the fourth century was the age of CREEDS, the sixteenth is the age of ARTICLES.
It will be seen, then, that the Thirty-Nine Articles do not stand alone; nor can they be rightly interpreted without reference to various other documents belonging to the same age, or without some knowledge of their history. Not only are they the last of a series of formularies of faith, issued with more or less authority by the English Church during the course of the Reformation, but also, in order to be rightly understood, they require comparison with other, not altogether dissimilar, forms put forth elsewhere.
The earlier formularies put forth in the Church of England are the following :
1. The Ten Articles of 1536. This document is noteworthy as being the first confession issued by the English Church in this period of transition.
As might be expected from a consideration of the date at which it appeared, it “ bore the character of a compromise between the old and new learning." It was the work of the Convocation, Cromwell having conveyed to that body the King's wish that controversies should be put an end to " through the determination of you and of his whole parliament." The Articles were ten in number, and were divided into two parts, the first five on doctrine: I. The principal Articles concerning our Faith. II. The Sacrament of Baptism. III. The Sacrament of Penance. IV. The Sacrament of the Altar. V. Justification. In the second part there followed five “concerning the laudable ceremonies used in the Church.” VI. Of Images. VII. Of Honouring of Saints. VIII. Of Pray
* Dixon's History of the Reformation, vol. i. p. 415.
ing to Saints. IX. Of Rites and Ceremonies. X. Of Purgatory."
As evidence of their transitional character the following facts may be noted :
(a) Penance is spoken of as a sacrament necessary for man's salvation, but is the only rite to which the name of a sacrament is applied, besides Baptism and the Eucharist.
(6) While the doctrine of the Real Presence is strongly asserted no mention is made of Transubstantiation.
(c) Images are to be retained as representers of virtue and good example, but superstitious worshipping of them is to be abolished. Saints are to be honoured, and held in reverence, and their prayers are to be asked for by us,
so that it be done without any vain superstition, so as to think that any saint is more merciful or will hear us sooner than Christ, or that any saint doth serve for one thing more than other, or is patron of the same.”
(d) Many medieval ceremonies are retained as useful, though having no power to remit sins.
(e) Prayers for the departed are to be continued, but abuses connected with the doctrine of purgatory are abolished.
The Articles, when signed by Convocation and approved by the King, were published with the following title :
“ Articles devised by the Kinges highness majestie, to stablyshe Christen quietnes and unitie amonge us, and to avoid contentious opinions, which articles be also approved by the consent and determination of the hole clergie of this realm.-Anno MDXXXVI."
Thus, although the initiative was claimed for the supreme head,” care was taken to assert the approval of the clergy, as represented in Convocation.
1 The Articles are given in full in Hardwick's History of the Articles, Appendix i., and in Bishop Lloyd's Formularies of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII., p. 1.
2. In the following year, 1537, this formulary was superseded by The Institution of a Christian Man, or, as it is commonly called, “ The Bishops' Book.” This document contained “the exposition or interpretation of the Common Creed, of the Seven Sacraments, of the Ten Commandments, and of the Pater Noster, and the Ave Maria, Justification, and Purgatory." The articles on Justification and Purgatory are copied verbatim from those in the Ten Articles, and in general the character of the teaching contained in the two documents is very similar. The “ Seven Sacraments” are retained, but abuses connected with extreme unction are carefully restrained, and a marked distinction is drawn between Baptism, the Eucharist, and Penance, and all other sacraments. The book was prepared by a Commission, which sat at Lambeth, under the presidency of Cranmer, and it was published in the name of the two archbishops, "and all other the bishops, prelates, and archdeacons of this realm," with the signatures of the archbishops, all the diocesan bishops, and twenty-five doctors. it was neither passed by Convocation nor by Parliament, it had no other authority than could be given by the names of those who had signed it, and being printed at the King's Press.” 1
3. In 1543 there appeared a revised edition of this work, under the title of The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man. Unlike its predecessor this work received the authority of Convocation, although the title-page contained a declaration that it was “set forth by the king's majesty of England,” and the preface was from the pen of the "supreme head," whence the volume was commonly known as the King's Book. While much of the earlier is embodied in it, yet 1 Dixon's History of the Reformation, vol. i. P.
529. The Bishops' Book
may be seen in Formularies of Faith, p. 21.
on a comparison of the two, the reactionary character of the King's Book is very clear. In many points a return to the old system of things is evident, as might be expected from a publication belonging to the later years of Henry's reign, when the Statute of the Six Articles (the "whip with six strings”) was in force. The section exalting the Eucharist and Penance over the other sacraments is omitted. The doctrine of Transubstantiation is definitely maintained, although the word itself is avoided. The section on extreme unction is rewritten, and the celibacy of the clergy is enforced.
Important as these three formularies of faith are, as marking the transitional character of the reign of Henry VIII., and the hesitating, gradual course of the doctrinal changes introduced, yet, for our present purpose, their importance is less than that of another document which was prepared in 1538, but never published nor in any way imposed upon the Church. While the works just considered enable us to see something of the practical system which our reformers had before them, and with which they were called upon to deal, yet it must be
1 The Eucharist "among all the sacraments is of incomparable dignity and virtue, forasmuch as in the other sacraments the outward kind of the thing which is used in them remaineth still in their own nature and substance unchanged; but in this most high sacrament of the altar, the creatures which be taken to the use thereof, as bread and wine, do not remain still in their own substance, but, by the virtue of Christ's word in the consecration, be changed and turned to be the very substance of the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ. So that, although thero appear the form of bread and wine, after the consecration, as did before, and to the outward senses nothing seemeth to be changed, yet must we, forsaking and renouncing the persuasion of our senses in this behalf, give our assent only to faith, and to the plain word of Christ, which affirmeth that substance there offered, exhibited, and received, to be the very precious body and blood of our Lord, as is plainly written by the evan. gelists and also by St. Paul.”—Formularies of Faith, p. 262. The corresponding passage in the Bishops' Book is very different in tone and character (see p. 100).