This states the doctrines held by the German Protestants as distinguished from those of the Romanists and the Zwinglians. It was designed to serve as a basis of united action by the German Reformers and princes. It was drawn up by Melanchthon, revised by Luther, and presented to Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. It contains twenty-eight Articles-twenty-one on questions of doctrine and seven on ecclesiastical abuses.

The reformers of the state of Würtemberg twenty-two years later, desiring a separate formula of their own, framed what is known as


This is a Lutheran document containing thirty-five Articles, and framed on the Augsburg model. It was presented to the Council of Trent by the ambassadors of the state of Würtemberg in 1552.

The same reasons that the Germans had for formulating the Augsburg Confession the English had for the issuance of Articles for the Church of England. The English Reformers were grossly misrepresented by the Romanists, who for a long time were very numerous and very strong in both government and Church. So long as no definite form of faith was prepared to which the clergy were obliged to subscribe it was hard to distinguish friend from foe. The English Reformation surged back and forth, like the tides of the ocean, the king, Henry VIII, sometimes favoring and sometimes opposing the Reformers and their attempts at reformation.

During the reign of Henry VIII the first English formula appeared. It was known as


These were prepared by the Convocation, the king's prime minister, Cromwell, having conveyed to that body the wish of the sovereign that all controversies should cease, by the "determination of you and of his whole Parliament." They consisted of five Articles on doctrine and five on the laudable ceremonies used in the Church.

In 1538 a select number of Lutheran divines were invited by King Henry VIII to come to England and confer with the English Reformers with a view to a union of Anglicans and Lutherans in one communion. Conferences were held, with Archbishop Cranmer presiding, and a formula was produced which is known as


The conferring divines found it easy to agree on points of doctrine, but could not agree on questions of discipline. The Germans returned home and nothing permanent was accomplished. The Articles were not submitted to Convocation or made public at that time. They are historically important because they were used in the preparation of the Forty-two Articles, from which the Thirty-nine were afterward framed.

In 1553 a new series of Articles was drafted by Archbishop Cranmer, and submitted to other bishops for approval and suggestion. They were later returned to Cranmer for "the last correction of his pen and judgment." On June 19 of this year they were published, and a mandate was issued in the name of Edward VI requiring subscription from all clergy, schoolmasters, and members of the University on admission to degrees. These are called


These were the result of frequent consultation between the leading Reformers. Such a formula had been expected for a long time. The royal order for the printing of them was given on the twentieth of May, 1553, and excited the hopes of the friends of reform. But this, like many other of the salutary fruits that ripened in the reign of King Edward, was soon to be buried under the force of the reaction occasioned by his death and the accession of Queen Mary. The achievements won in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI were largely lost in the reign of this queen. The principal actors in the Reformation were led to the stake. Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and many others won the crown of martyrdom. In those stormy times passion and bigotry rather than reason and righteousness ruled on both sides.

During the five-year reign of Mary the Forty-two Articles, known as the Edwardian Articles, dropped out of sight. But in 1558 Elizabeth ascended the throne and Protestantism breathed more freely. In the year 1562 Convocation met and a revision of the Forty-two Articles was undertaken with a view to their revival in a modified form. This resulted in


This revision was a most important one. After various additions, omissions, and other changes, this new series was published under the direct authority of Queen Elizabeth, during whose long reign the Reformation prospered.

In the interval between 1562 and 1571 the Articles were considered by the bishops and the queen. Various changes and additions were contemplated. The queen


had refused to submit the Articles to Parliament, and the general clergy (many of whom were still attached to Rome) were not required to subscribe to them. 1570 the papal bull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth was issued. This completed the separation of the Anglican Church from Rome. Immediately after this Parliament passed a law requiring that all the clergy who had been ordained during the reign of Mary, and all candidates for future ordination, should subscribe to the Articles. After their subscription the Articles were again revised and submitted to the queen "to peruse them and judge them," and the result was


These were published with the royal ratification and the assent of Convocation. This was the final revision, and the Articles are now found in the Book of Common Prayer.

The English Articles in their earliest form were the product of many bishops and divines. As the Roman Catholic Church contained all that was positive in Christian doctrine, the English Reformers found it difficult to prepare Articles which simply denied teachings of that Church contrary to the Word of God; they therefore adopted, as a foundation, an Article declaring that the whole doctrine of the Christian religion is contained in the Scriptures, and that therefore they would admit no Article till it had been proved from Scripture.

The Articles were not the work of any one eminent theologian; were not devised by any Council, Conference, or Convocation. They were a growth, a development calculated to meet and resist errors that had arisen in the Church of Christ in different centuries. They mark the struggles of the Church to arrive at a clear and

correct definition of truth, to emerge from error and guard herself against inroads of dangerous heresies. They bear the marks of many minds. For foundation they go back to Christ and the apostles, since every positive assertion of doctrine must be founded upon God's Word and every negative declaration must be justified by the same infallible rule.


Assent or subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles is imposed upon all who seek orders in the Anglican Church, but not upon the laity. They profess to be a formula "for the avoiding of diversities of opinion" in the public teaching of the clergy. It is well known, however, that there is a great diversity of opinion and doctrine taught. Dr. Döllinger says: "The divergence of views between different parties in this Church is greater than any which separates it from the Greek and Latin Churches, if the three are to be judged by their formal standards." is divided into three great parties: the Evangelical or Low Church, the Broad Church, and the High Church or Anglo-Catholic. The first is Calvinistic, the second is deeply tinctured with German philosophical and theological thought, the third is ritualistic, discarding the name of Protestant. This latter party regards the Church as the divinely appointed organ and keeper of doctrine and the means of grace, and as standing or falling by the apostolical succession.2

1Lecture on Reunion of Churches, p. 130.

It may seem strange that good and intelligent men of such widely different views could conscientiously subscribe to the same Articles of Religion. The learned Dr. William Paley, a celebrated divine of the English Church, takes a broad view of assent by the clergy: "They who contend that nothing less can justify subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles than the actual belief of each and every separate proposition contained in them must suppose that the legislature expected the consent of ten thousand men, and that in perpetual succession, not to one controverted proposition, but to many hundreds. It is difficult to conceive how this could be expected by any who observed the incurable perversity of human opinion upon all subjects short of demonstration.

"If the authors of the law did not intend this, what did they intend? "They intended to exclude from offices in the Church,

"I. All abettors of popery.

"II. Anabaptists, who were at that time a powerful party on the Continent. "III. The Puritans, who were hostile to an Episcopal constitution; and, in

« VorigeDoorgaan »