Page images
PDF
EPUB

thus by their own acts have again and again testified to their conviction that the natural interpretation of the authoritative formularies of the Church of England is not favourable to their tenets. Pitt's saying that the Church of England has a Popish liturgy and a Calvinistic set of Articles is well known, and probably represents an opinion which is widely held. It is, however, seriously inaccurate. It must be admitted that there is a difference between the Articles and the Prayer-Book. The Articles, dating as they do from the early years of Elizabeth's reign, are, as has been already implied, the product of a time when churchmen were still standing on the defensive, and had not yet fully worked out their true position. For example, exposed as they were to the violent attacks of the party of the exiles on the whole system of Church government, they were concerned mainly to defend Episcopacy as an allowable form of Church government rather than as a system of divine origin. In other matters, too, their position was more or less tentative, and often negative rather than positive. The Articles naturally reflect the character of the time to which they belong, and speak at times in hesitating and indecisive tones. The Prayer-Book has twice undergone revision since the Articles assumed their present form.

The revision of 1604 gave us the latter part of the Catechism with its clear teaching on the sacraments, and the presence in the Eucharist; while the impress of the Caroline divines was stamped upon the book in 1662; and the numerous changes then

uced bear witness to the determination of those who were responsible for them to make the book more adequate to express the mind of the Church catholic. In order, therefore, to arrive at the full teaching and mature judgment of the Church of England, the Articles must be supplemented by the Prayer-Book. Thus much is frankly admitted. What is not admitted is that the Articles were framed on a definite Calvinistic hypothesis, and that the interpretation fastened upon them by Calvinists is true. On such an hypothesis they are, to say the least, seriously defective; and so much was admitted by the party, even as early as 1571. We have already seen that the Parliament of that year hesitated to enforce subscription to those Articles which concern the discipline and polity of the Church. In spite of this it would appear that some of the Puritans were unable to subscribe, and consequently suffered deprivation, under the terms of the Act; 1 and that the doctrinal Articles were not altogether satisfactory to them is proved by the Admonitions to Parliament which emanated from the Puritan party shortly afterwards. In the first of these (1572) the Puritans ingenuously admit that some reservation was requisite on their part, if they were to accept the Articles, for they write as follows :—“For the articles concerning the substance of doctrine, using a godly interpretation in a point or two, which are either too sparely or else too darkly set down, we were and are ready, according to duty, to subscribe unto them." In the “Second Admonition" some months later they say boldly, “The Book of the Articles of Christian Religion speaketh very dangerously of falling from grace, which is to be reformed, because it too much inclineth to error.'

Again, the whole controversy, which resulted in the preparation of the Lambeth Articles in 1595, is a witness to the same fact. This is not the place to enter into the history of that controversy. The Articles themselves

See the complaint raised in the "first admonition,” quoted in Prothero's Statutes and Constitutional Documents, p. 198.

? On the controversy, see Perry's English Church History, vol. ii. p. 351 seq. and Hardwick, p. 169 seq.

will be given in the commentary on Article XVII. It will be sufficient to point out here that in order to crush at the outset the revolt against the dominant Calvinism at Cambridge Archbishop Whitgift was persuaded to send down to the university a series of nine Articles prepared by Whitaker, the Regius Professor of Divinity, and revised and approved by the archbishop himself and a few other divines assembled at Lambeth. These Articles set forth, in the harshest and narrowest fashion, the main points of the Calvinistic system, and we have only to place them side by side with our own Seventeenth Article to feel convinced that, whatever it means, it does not mean to teach the doctrine of Calvin. Happily the Queen intervened, and the attempt to force the Lambeth Articles upon the Church was dropped. They were not even presented to Convocation, nor have they ever received any authority of any kind in this country.

Once more, at the beginning of the reign of James I., the Puritans confessed that from their point of view the Articles were defective and inadequate. At the Hampton Court Conference, in 1604, various objections were raised to them by Reynolds, the Puritan spokesman, who

moved his majesty that the Book of Articles of Religion, concluded 1562, might be explained in places obscure, and enlarged where some things were defective. For example, whereas Article 16, the words are these :

After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace”; notwithstanding the meaning be sound, yet he desired that, because they may seem to be contrary to the doctrine of God's predestination and election in the Seventeenth Article, both those words might be explained with this, or the like addition, “yet neither totally nor finally"; and also that the nine assertions orthodoxal, as he termed them, concluded upon at Lambeth, might be inserted into that “Book of Articles.”1 Towards the close of the same year an

apology for those ministers who are troubled for refusing of subscription and conformity” was drawn up by the Lincolnshire Nonconformists and presented to the King (December 1, 1604), in which complaint is made that they are unable to subscribe, because they are “persuaded that both the Book of Common Prayer and the other book (i.e. the Articles) contain in them sundry things which are not agreeable but contrary to the word of God.2 Again, when, during the Civil War, the Puritan party had obtained the upper hand, one of the first things undertaken by them was a revision of the Articles “ in order to render their sense more express and determinate in favour of Calvinism.” Acting under directions received from the Parliament the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in 1643, appointed a committee, “ to consider what amendments were proper to be made in the doctrinal articles of the Church of England, and report them to the assembly, who were ten weeks in debating upon the first fifteen.” later date the divines were “very busy upon Article XVI. and upon that clause of it which mentioneth departing from grace," when their work was altogether suspended, by order of the Parliament. The first fifteen Articles, as amended by this body, have been printed by Neal the Puritan historian, and a singular composition it is. The first Article is the only one that was allowed to remain untouched. The changes in Articles IV., V., XIV., and XV. are of little or no consequence. Very significant, however, is the change in Article II., where

At a

1“ The Sum and Substance of the Conference, etc." in Cardwell's History of Conferences, p. 178.

Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. ii. p. 56. Op. cit. vol. iii. Appendix i,

in the clause on the Atonement, which states that Christ died “to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men,” the word "all ” is deliberately expunged, in order to bring the article into harmony with the tenet of “particular redemption.” The eighth (“On the creeds”) was at first omitted altogether, but the divines were content to let it remain, on condition that the creeds were re-translated and annotated. In the remaining Articles changes of more or less importance will be found, which are duly noted in the commentary, and which give in some cases an entirely different complexion to the teaching of the Articles. But even so we learn from the report of divines to the House of Commons that they were not completely satisfied with the result of their labours, for they felt themselves constrained to acknowledge that, in spite of their efforts, very many things continued to be “defective," and “ other expressions also were fit to be changed.” 2

Still later, we find that the Puritan objections to the Articles were repeated after the Restoration, and so late as 1689 Richard Baxter, in his English Nonconformity, admits that “the words of the Articles in their obvious sense are many times liable to exception, and that there are many things in them that good men may scruple." 3

The facts here collected together are suggestive. Of themselves they are sufficient to show how utterly false is the popular misconception to which Pitt gave expression in the remark quoted above; and when contrasted with the readiness of Laud and his party to appeal to the " literal and grammatical sense of the Articles," they indicate not obscurely that the interpretation placed upon the Articles by the Laudian school of divines and their successors is historically correct. 1 See especially the notes on Article IX. See Hardwick, p. 212

3 Ch. xxiv.

« PreviousContinue »