Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article XVI (Part 1)

Article XVI.

Of Sin after Baptism.

NOT every deadly sin willingly committed after baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned which say they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

De Peccato Post Baptismum.

NON omne peccatum mortale post baptismum voluntarie perpetratum, est peccatum in Spiritum Sanctum, et irremissibile. Proinde lapsis a baptismo in peccata, locus pœnitentiæ non est negandus. Post acceptum Spiritum Sanctum possumus a gratia data recedere, atque peccare, denuoque per gratiam Dei resurgere, ac resipiscere; ideoque illi damnandi sunt, qui se, quamdiu hic vivant, amplius non posse peccare affirmant, aut vere resipiscentibus veniæ locum denegant.

Section I. — History.

THE Article as it now stands is very nearly the same as the fifteenth Article of A. D. 1552. But in the Articles of 1552, the sixteenth Article followed out the subject of the fifteenth, and treated expressly of Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

The Article which we now have, treats of, or alludes to

I. Deadly sin after baptism, and the possibility of repentance for such sin.

II. The sin against the Holy Ghost.

III. The possibility of falling from grace.

The first of these three divisions is that which forms the main subject of the Article; the other two being incidentally alluded to. The third, however, is spoken of in somewhat decided terms, and being a point on which there has been no little controversy, requires to be considered.

I. As regards the possibility of repentance and forgiveness for sins committed after baptism and the grace of God, there was some stir even in early ages of the Church. Some of the Gnostics, who affected great asceticism, appear to have held also very rigid notions of the divine justice and the irremissibility of sins. Clement of Alexandria says that Basilides taught that “not all sins, but only sins which were committed involuntarily or through ignorance, were forgiven.”[1]

The Church itself in early times was very severe in its censures against heinous crimes, and very slow in admitting offenders to Church-communion. It appears that in the second and third centuries, persons who committed small sins might be admitted frequently to repentance, but that great and flagrant offenders were put to penance and reconciled to the Church but once. In the case indeed of some very grievous, deadly, and often-repeated sins, the Church seems to have refused communion even at the last hour. The meaning of which severity doubtless was, that offenders might not mock God and the Church with feigned repentance, turning again to sin like the swine to their wallowing in the mire.[2]

The Montanists carried this rigour much farther than the Catholics; for they not only refused repeated penances and reconciliation, but did not allow to the Church the power of forgiving great sins after baptism, even once. Tertullian, in those writings which he composed before he became a Montanist, speaks of grievous sins as once, and but once, remitted by the Church. After he had joined the sect of the Montanists, he distinguishes between venial sins, (such as causeless anger, evil speaking, rash swearing, falsehood,) and sins of a heinous and deadly character, such as murder, idolatry, fraud, denying Christ, blasphemy, adultery, fornication. Of these latter he says there is no remission, and that even Christ will not intercede for them.[3]

St. Clement of Alexandria in one place seems to say that there is no repentance but once after baptism.[4] It is probable that he refers to a passage in the Pastor of Hermas, where we read that there is but one penitence, namely, when we descend into the water, and so receive remission of sins.[5] But whereas it is pretty certain that Hermas speaks of the repentance and remission of sins in baptism to be once given and never repeated, but does not thereby mean to exclude from repentance after baptism;[6] so it appears that Clement of Alexandria speaks either of one public penance, which might be conceded by the Church,[7] or that he simply means that to repent and return again continually to former sins proves the repentance not to have been real, but feigned and hypocritical. Yet some have thought that the language both of Hermas and Clement prepared the way for the severity of Origen and the errors of the Novatians.

Origen appears to have thrown out the opinion, that persons who had once embraced the Gospel and been baptized, and then denied the faith, could not be readmitted to repentance nor obtain pardon of sin.[8]

The sect of the Novatians arose about the middle of the third century. Novatian, their founder, a presbyter of Rome, had on a former occasion been chosen by the Church of that city to write to Cyprian on the subject of restoring the lapsed to communion.[9] In the year 251, Cornelius was elected Bishop of Rome, a post to which Novatian aspired. Novatian had himself secured three bishops, ignorant and inexperienced men, to consecrate him to the bishopric. But not succeeding in his hopes of holding possession of the see, he set up a schismatical communion. He does not appear to have held any heretical doctrine; but he denied to the Church the power of restoring to communion those who had lapsed in persecution. Eusebius indeed says, that he denied to them the hope of salvation;[10] but it seems more probable, from the language of Cyprian and others, that he exhorted them to repent, and to seek for pardon, but refused to offer them any consolation, or to admit them again to any church-privilege in this life.[11]

Whether he extended this severity to heinous sins in general is not apparent; but it seems that the sect of the Novatians, who owed their origin to him, refused communion to the penitent after other heavy offences besides lapsing in persecution.[12] The Novatians arrogated to themselves the title of Cathari, or pure; and refused to acknowledge the baptism of those Churches which admitted the lapsed to penance and communion.

The Church Catholic, however, rejected at once the severity of Novatian’s sentiments. Eusebius, on the authority of Cornelius, mentions a council of bishops, who met at Rome and condemned the folly of Novatian.[13] Still the sect of the Cathari continued, and appears to have flourished throughout the fourth and part of the fifth century. But the fathers of the Church uniformly esteemed them heretics, and expressed their belief in the remissibility of sin, on repentance, after baptism.[14]

St. Cyprian says, that to a lapsed Christian, who repents, prays, and exerts himself, God gives pardon and restores his arms, so that he may fight again, strengthened for the conflict by the very sorrow for his sins. And he, thus strengthened by the Lord, may make glad the Church, which he had saddened, and obtain not only pardon, but a crown.[15] St. Gregory Nazianzen calls penitence another baptism, but rougher and more troublesome; and says that owning the infirmity and fickleness of man, he gratefully accepts for himself, and willingly imparts to others, this grace of repentance; aware that he himself is compassed with infirmities, and that with that measure he metes it shall be measured to him again. The Novatian he calls the modern Pharisee, and asks if he would not have allowed the repentance of David, or the return of Peter after he had denied his Lord, or the contrition of the incestuous Corinthian, to whom St. Paul confirmed his love.[16]

St. Ambrose says, that, as our blessed Lord calls all that are weary and heavy laden to come unto Him, those cannot be reckoned as His disciples, who, whilst they have need of mercy themselves, yet deny it to others.[17] The Novatians granted pardon to smaller, not to greater crimes; but God, says St. Ambrose, makes no such distinction, who has promised His mercy to all, and gives to all His priests the power of loosing without any exception. Only, if the crime be great, so must be the repentance.[18]

Other early heretics are mentioned, as agreeing with the Novatians in their severity against the lapsed. The Apostolici are reckoned by Epiphanius as an offset from the Encratites or Cathari. Their opinions concerning marriage and all worldly indulgences were highly ascetic, and they refused to receive those who once fell.[19] The Meletians were an Egyptian sect. They arose about the time of Diocletian’s persecution. Meletius, their founder, was Bishop of Lycopolis in the Thebaid. He was deposed by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, and set up a schismatical communion under Alexander, the successor of Peter. They ultimately joined the Arians, as being the great enemies of Alexander. Epiphanius and Augustine ascribe to them the same severity to the lapsed which characterized the Novatians.[20] The Luciferians, who followed Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia, avoided communion with those who had lapsed to Arianism, and with those bishops who restored the lapsed. It should seem from Jerome that the Luciferians did not altogether exclude laymen who had lapsed from returning to communion, but would on no account receive repentant bishops and presbyters; arguing from our Lord’s words, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted.”[21]

At the period of the Reformation, it appears that some of the sects which then arose, most probably the Anabaptists in particular, revived in some degree the Novatian errors. The XIth Article of the Confession of Augsburg, which is the source of the XVIth Article of the Church of England, condemns the Novatians by name, for refusing repentance to the lapsed, and afterwards condemns the Anabaptists, though for another error, namely, the denial that persons once justified ever lose the grace of God.[22] Dr. Hey thinks that both the German and English reformers had chiefly in view the Anabaptists, in their condemnation of this extreme rigour against the lapsed.[23]

In the fourteenth session of the Council of Trent, several decrees and canons were drawn up upon penance, whereby it was defined that, for sins after baptism, the sacrament of penance was essential and sufficient; the form of the sacrament being contrition, confession, and satisfaction. It was determined that it was necessary to pardon that every mortal sin should be confessed, but not every venial sin.[24]

The continental reformers were very express in asserting the efficacy of repentance for remission of sin after baptism. Thus, the Confession of Augsburg says, that “Remission of sins may be granted to those who lapse after baptism, at any time when they turn to God. And the Church ought to grant absolution to such.”[25] The Helvetic Confession declares, that “there is access to God and pardon for all who believe, with the exception of those guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; therefore the old and new Novatians are to be condemned.”[26]

The sentiments of the English Reformers appear plainly, both in the wording of this Article, and in several of the Homilies. For example, in the First Book of Homilies we read, “They, which in act or deed do sin after baptism, when they turn again to God unfeignedly, they are likewise washed by this sacrifice from their sins, in such sort that there remaineth not any spot of sin that shall be imputed to their damnation.”[27] “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 upon the Cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism as of all actual sin committed by us after our baptism, if we truly repent and turn to Him unfeignedly again.”[28] And in the Second Book of Homilies we are told, “Repentance is never too late, so that it be true and just.”[29] “Although we do, after we be once come to God, and grafted in his Son Jesus Christ, fall into great sins . . . . yet if we rise again by repentance, and with a full purpose of amendment of life do flee unto the mercy of God, taking sure hold thereon, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, there is an assured and infallible hope of pardon and remission of the same, and that we shall be received again into the favour of our heavenly Father.”[30]

II. Concerning the sin against the Holy Ghost, the language of our Article is directed against an opinion, which was first broached by Origen. Origen and Theognostus taught, that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was, when those who in baptism had received the gift of the Spirit, returned again to sin; and that such had never forgiveness. Origen, we are told, assigned as a reason for this, that, whereas God the Father pervades and embraces all things, animate and inanimate, and the power of God the Son extends more immediately to the rational creatures of God, among whom are heathen men who have never yet believed; the Spirit of God, on the contrary, is in those only who have received the grace of baptism. Hence, when Gentiles and unbelievers sin by blasphemy, they sin against the Son, who is in them, yet they can be forgiven. But when baptized Christians sin, their iniquity proceeds to the Spirit of God, who dwells in their hearts, and therefore they have never forgiveness.

St. Athanasius wrote a treatise expressly on the subject, in which he first states, and then examines and confutes, this notion of Origen’s. He observes, that the occasion of our Lord’s speaking of the sin against the Holy Ghost was the blasphemy of the Pharisees, who disbelieved the miracles of Christ, and ascribed them to Beelzebub. They, he remarks, had never been baptized, and yet they had either committed, or were in imminent danger of committing, the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Athanasius himself appears to maintain, that the blasphemy against the Son of Man was the disbelieving and blaspheming against our blessed Lord, when as yet only His human nature was manifested: but that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was continuing to deride and speak evil of Him, when He had given plain and irrefragable proofs of His Godhead and Divine nature.[31] The author, under his name, of the Questions to Antiochus, says, that they blasphemed the Holy Spirit, that is, the Divine nature of the Son who said that He cast out devils by Beelzebub. To them, he says, there is no remission in this world, nor in the next. But, he adds, we must understand this, not that he who blasphemes and repents, but that he who blasphemes and does not repent, shall never be forgiven; for no sin is unpardonable in the presence of God to those who holily and worthily repent; and then he adds, that there are three baptisms which purge away sin: the baptism of water, the baptism of blood, i. e. martyrdom, and the baptism of tears, i. e. repentance; and that many, who had defiled by backsliding their holy baptism, have yet been cleansed and accepted by the baptism of tears.[32]

Many, both ancient and modern, have followed in the steps of Athanasius, and given a like interpretation of the blasphemy against the Spirit. St. Chrysostom appears to take the same view; namely, that blasphemy was irremissible, which was uttered after the discovery and experimental proof of the Spirit’s working. But then he appears to deny remission of such sin, not only to the impenitent, but even to those who repent.[33]

St. Augustine has some very excellent observations on the subject. He shows that neither Jews nor Gentiles were kept from pardon, because they had blasphemed Christ and the Holy Spirit in their unconverted state; nor yet that persons who had been baptized in infancy, and had grown up in ignorance, were refused forgiveness, because in their state of ignorance they resisted the Spirit and spoke against Him. He shows too, that even baptized persons lapsing, or becoming heretics, were yet admitted to the peace of the Church on their conversion and repentance; and enumerates among such heretics, Sabellians, Arians, Manichæans, Cataphrygians, Donatists. And then concludes, that the sin against the Spirit of God, which hath never forgiveness, is a final and obdurate continuance in wickedness, despite of all the calls of God to repentance, joined with a desperation of the mercy of God.[34]

That the Church at large rejected the theory of Origen, though the Novatians appear to have adopted it, is plain from their admitting offenders after baptism, even the most heinous, to penance and absolution. They did not indeed restore them readily and lightly, as we do at present, but after a long term of penitence and exclusion from church-privileges; yet still, after sufficient satisfaction had been given to the Church, all offenders were ecclesiastically pardoned, and the sinner restored to peace and communion. For example, for fornication, the offender was expelled three years from the public service of the Church, three years more he was in the station of hearers, three years more in the station of the prostrate, and then was received to full communion. The term was double for adultery, and three times as long for murder. There was, however, some discretion allowed to the bishop, who might contract the term of discipline upon just ground of reason; and especially if there was imminent danger of death, the clemency of the fathers determined that the sinner should not be permitted to enter on his long last journey without provision for it, and without participation in the holy sacraments.[35] These rules were not the same in all dioceses and all parts of the Church. Thus the council of Ancyra enjoins seven years’ penance for adultery;[36] for such as had sacrificed, three years of prostration, and two years more as communicants without oblation;[37] and for those who had sacrificed two or three times, it enjoins a penance of six years.[38] But the diversity in the measure of penance only proves identity of principle.

III. The question of the possibility of falling from grace may be considered as intimately connected with the doctrine of God’s predestination, and therefore might properly come under the XVIIth Article. Yet, as it is certainly in some degree treated of in this Article, and may be separated from the question of predestination, we may not refuse to consider it here.

The earliest fathers, Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and others, speak of God’s election and of predestination to grace and life. But, as we shall see in the next Article, it is not immediately certain in what sense they use this language of holy Scripture. The controversies which afterwards arose concerning the Pelagian heresy, and the predestinarian doctrines of St. Augustine, induced persons to use more accurate terms: and Augustine himself argues that the fathers did not teach his doctrines, because no heresy had arisen which made it necessary to expound them.[39] It seems, however, tolerably certain that the fathers of the second century spoke of the possibility of falling away from grace, and held that those who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit might afterwards reject it and be lost. Justin Martyr says, that “God will accept the penitent, as if he had never sinned, and will treat him who turns from godliness to impiety, as a sinner and unjust. Wherefore our Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘In whatsoever I find you, I will judge you.'”[40] Irenæus says, that whereas God gives grace, those who profit by it will receive glory, but those who reject it will be punished.[41] He compares children of God, who disobey Him, to sons of men who are disinherited by their fathers; and says that if we disobey God, we shall be cast off by Him.[42] Clement of Alexandria speaks of his Gnostic or perfect Christian, as praying for the permanence and continuance of that good which he already possesses.[43] Tertullian indeed, in his later treatises, especially after he had become a Montanist, seems to say that a person who fell away from grace had never been a Christian. In his tract De Præscriptione even, which was probably written before his Montanism, he speaks of no one as a Christian, but such as endured to the end.[44] But in his tract De Pudicitia, which was written when he had become a Montanist, in commenting on those words of St. John, “He who is born of God sinneth not,” he argues that venial sins, such as causeless anger, rash swearing, &c., all Christians are liable to; but that deadly sin, such as murder, idolatry, blasphemy, impiety, no good Christian, no child of God, will commit.[45] Bishop Kaye even thinks that the language of Tertullian in his later writings is directly opposed to the doctrine of our XVIth Article. But he observes that as there was no controversy on the subject of perseverance in his days, we must not construe his expressions too strictly.[46] The time when this question really came to be discussed was after the rise of Pelagianism, and when St. Augustine had stated his predestinarian opinions. Perseverance was a natural part of his doctrine of predestination; for, whereas he taught that some men were predestinated to eternal salvation, whilst others were permitted to fall by their own sins into condemnation, it followed of necessity that he should believe some to be predestinated to final perseverance, and others not. In his work De Correptione et Gratia, he calls those elect who were predestinated to eternal life;[47] and observes that those who did not persevere were not properly to be called elect, for they were not separated from the mass of perdition by the foreknowledge and predestination of God; and though, when they believed and were baptized and lived according to God, they might be called elect, yet it was by those who knew not the future, not by God, who saw that they would not persevere.[48]

The clergy of Marseilles and other parts of Gaul, being offended at the predestinarianism expressed in this and other treatises of Augustine, Prosper and Hilary wrote to him a statement of their objections. These letters of Hilary and Prosper called forth a reply from St. Augustine, in two books; the former on the Predestination of the Saints, the other on the Gift of Perseverance. In the latter, he asserts perseverance to be the gift of God, not given equally to all, but only to the predestinated. Whether a person has received this gift must in this life ever be uncertain; for, however long he may have persevered in holiness, yet if he does not persevere to the end, he cannot have received the grace of perseverance.[49] He says, that of two infants equally born in sin, by God’s will one is taken, one left; that, of two grown persons, one follows God’s call, another refuses to follow it; and all this is from the inscrutable judgments of God. And so, of two pious persons, why to one is granted final perseverance, to another it is not granted, is to be resolved into the still more inscrutable judgments of God.[50]

It appears plainly that St. Augustine held two distinct predestinations: one predestination to regeneration and a state of grace, the other predestination to perseverance and to final reward. We find him continually speaking of persons predestinated to be brought into the Church, and so by God’s grace brought to baptism, and therein regenerate, but not necessarily on that account persevering to the end. Nay, he speaks of persons continuing in a state of grace for many years, but yet finally falling away.[51] Such were predestinated to regeneration, and to receive grace and sanctification, but for some unknown though doubtless just cause, they were not predestinated to final perseverance. God is pleased to mix those who will not persevere with those who will, for good and wise reasons, on purpose that he who thinketh he standeth should take heed lest he fall.[52] In this life it was utterly impossible for any one to know whether he would persevere or not.[53] He might live ten years and persevere for five, and yet for the last five fall away.[54] We may see examples of God’s hidden counsels in the case of some infants who die unregenerate, others who die regenerate; the former lost, the latter saved. And of those who are regenerate and grow up, some persevering to the end, others permitted to live on till they lapsed and fell away, and so are lost, who if they had died just before they lapsed, would have been saved; and again others, who had lapsed, preserved in life till they repented again, who, if they had been taken away before repentance, would have been damned.[55]

It is of considerable importance to observe the nature of St. Augustine’s doctrine of perseverance, as it materially differs from the doctrine most generally held by later predestinarians. St. Augustine did not hold that persons who had once received the gift of God’s Spirit could never lose it, or at least, could never be finally lost. On the contrary, he plainly taught that persons might receive the gift of regeneration, and might persevere in holiness for a time, and yet, if they had not the gift of perseverance, might fall away at the last. In short, he held that predestination to grace did not necessarily imply predestination to glory. A person might receive the grace of God and act upon it, and yet not persevere to the end; and hence it was that he held that, even if a person had all the signs and tokens of a child of God, it was quite impossible in this life to say whether he was predestinated to persevere to the end.[56]

The question of final perseverance, and of the falling from grace, thenceforth became a natural part of discussions concerning predestination.

At the time of the Reformation all these subjects were hotly discussed. The Council of Trent found nothing to condemn in the writings of Luther, or of the Lutheran divines, on the subject of predestination, or of final perseverance;[57] but from the writings of the Zuinglians several articles were drawn out which were considered deserving of condemnation. Among these there were, (5) That the justified cannot fall from grace. (6) That those who are called, and are not in the number of the predestinated, do never receive grace. (8) That the justified is bound to believe for certain that in case he fall from grace he shall receive it again.[58]

The divines of Trent, though not entirely at one concerning some questions of predestination, agreed to censure these concerning final perseverance, with admirable concord. They said that it had always been an opinion in the Church, that many receive grace and keep it for a time, who afterwards lose it, and are damned at the last. They alleged the examples of Saul, Solomon, and Judas, of whom our Lord said, “Of those whom thou hast given me have I lost none save the son of perdition.” To these they added Nicholas, one of the deacons, and for a conclusion of all, the fall of Luther.[59]

The language of Luther, on all the subjects connected with predestination, varies a good deal. Earlier in his life he was a high predestinarian; but later he seems to have materially changed his views. In his commentary on the 17th chapter of St. John, he speaks of all disputes on predestination as having sprung from their author the devil.[60] In his commentary on the Galatians (ch. v. 4), he speaks plainly of falling from grace, and says that “he who falls away from grace, loses expiation, remission of sins, righteousness, liberty, life, &c., which Christ by His death and resurrection deserved for us; and, in their room, acquires wrath and God’s judgment, sin, death, slavery to the devil, and eternal damnation.”[61]

The XIth Article of the Confession of Augsburg, which is clearly the source of our own XVIth Article, condemns the Anabaptists, who say that persons once justified cannot again lose the Holy Spirit.[62] From which we may conclude, first, that such was the teaching of the Anabaptists; and secondly, that the Lutherans viewed it altogether as an Anabaptist error.

The Calvinist divines, on the contrary, have generally believed that grace once given was indefectible; and this is in fact their doctrine of perseverance. Calvin himself held, that our Lord and St. Paul taught us to confide that we should always be safe, if we were once made Christ’s; and that those who fall away may have had the outward signs, but had not the inward truth of election.[63]

The English reformers, as we have already seen, adopted in this Article the language, not of the Zuinglians and Calvinists, but of the Confession of Augsburg and the Lutherans. This is apparent from the wording of the Article itself, which evidently follows the wording of the Confession of Augsburg; and also from the Homilies, and other documents, both before and after the drawing up of the Articles. “The Necessary Doctrine” has been appropriately cited, which says, “It is no doubt, but although we be once justified, yet we may fall therefrom . . . . And although we be illuminated, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, yet we may fall and displease God.”[64] The whole of the Homily “Of Falling from God” holds language of the same character. It should be read throughout, being a practical discourse, from which extracts would fail to give a right impression. It is impossible to doubt, that the doctrine contained in it is, that we may once receive the grace of God, and yet finally fall away from Him. These were documents drawn up at the period of the Reformation, shortly before the putting forth of the Articles. The second book of Homilies, written early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and of nearly the same date with the final revision of the Articles, breathes the same spirit throughout. The language of the Homily called “The First Part of the Information of certain parts of Scripture” may be referred to as a specimen. After reciting examples from Scripture of the sins of good men, it continues, “We ought then to learn by them this profitable lesson, that if so godly men as they were, which otherwise felt inwardly of God’s Holy Spirit influencing their hearts with the fear and love of God, could not by their own strength keep themselves from commiting horrible sin, but did so grievously fall that without God’s mercy they had perished everlastingly; how much more ought we then, miserable wretches, which have no feeling of God within us at all, continually to fear, not only that we may fall as they did, but also be overcome and drowned in sin, as they were not.”

The Homily on the Resurrection has the following: “Ye must consider that ye be therefore cleansed and renewed that ye should henceforth serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of your life, that ye may reign with Him in everlasting life (Luke i.) If ye refuse so great grace whereto ye be called, what other thing do ye than heap to you damnation more and more, and so provoke God to cast His displeasure upon you, and to revenge this mockage of His holy sacraments in so great abusing of them? Apply yourselves, good friends, to live in Christ, that Christ may still live in you,” &c.

Similar is the tone breathed by the Liturgy itself. In the Baptismal Service we are taught to pray, that the baptized child “may ever remain in the number of God’s faithful and elect children.” In the Catechism the child, after speaking of himself as in a state of salvation, adds, “I pray unto God to give me His grace that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end.” And in the Burial Service we pray that God will “suffer us not at our last hour for any pains of death to fall from” Him.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the sympathy which had sprung up with the Calvinistic reformers of the continent made the teaching of our English divines approximate more nearly to the teaching of the Calvinists. Near the end of that reign a dispute arose at Cambridge, originating in the teaching of Barret, a fellow of Caius College, who preached ad clerum against Calvin’s doctrines about predestination and falling from grace. Barret was complained of to Archbishop Whitgift, who at first took his part; but at last, at the earnest request of the heads of Colleges, sent for him to Lambeth, where he was directed not to teach like doctrines again. The dispute so originating was continued between Dr. Whitaker, the Regius Professor, and Dr. Baro, the Margaret Professor, of Divinity. Whitaker, who took the high Calvinistic side, was sent by his party to Lambeth, where he proposed to the Archbishop to send down to Cambridge a series of Articles, nine in number, stamped with the authority of the archbishops and bishops, in order to check the progress of what he called Pelagianism. Archbishop Whitgift was thus induced to call a meeting of bishops and other clergy. The theses of Whitaker were submitted to them, and with some few alterations, which however were of considerable importance, they were passed by the meeting and sent down to Cambridge. The Queen censured Whitgift for the whole proceeding; and he promised to write to Cambridge, that the Articles might be suppressed. These were the famous Lambeth Articles. The fifth and sixth concerned falling from grace and certainty of salvation. The fifth as proposed by Whitaker ran thus, “True, living, and justifying faith, and the influence of the Spirit of God, is not extinguished, nor fails, nor goes off, in those who have once been partakers of it, either totally or finally.” The divines at Lambeth erased the words “in those who have once been partakers of it,” and substituted for them “in the elect;” thus making the doctrine more nearly correspond with Augustine’s, rather than, as it did in Whitaker’s draught of it, with Calvin’s. The sixth Article, in Whitaker’s draught, said that “A man who truly believes, that is, who has justifying faith, is sure, from the certainty of faith, concerning the remission of his sins and his eternal salvation through Christ.” For “certainty of faith” the Lambeth divines substituted “full assurance of faith,” using that word as signifying, not a full and absolute certainty, such as is the certainty of matters of science or of the principles of the faith, but rather a lesser degree of certainty, such as is obtained in matters of judicial evidence and legal trials.[65]

Soon after the accession of James I., A. D. 1604, the conference was held at Hampton Court. Dr. Reynolds, the speaker for the Puritans, moved, among other things, that the Articles be explained and enlarged. For example, whereas in Art. XVI. the words are these: “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace,” he wished that there should be added, “yet neither totally nor finally;” and also that “the nine assertions orthodoxal concluded at Lambeth might be inserted into that book of Articles.” On this point he was answered by the Bishop of London; no alteration of the kind was conceded, the Articles remaining as they were before, and the Lambeth Articles never having received any sanction of the Church or the Crown.[66]


  1. Clem. Alex. Strom. IV. p. 634, Potter; Mosheim, De Rebus ante Constant. sæc. 2, c. 48; King, On the Creed, p. 358; Bp. Kaye’s Clem. Alex. p. 269.
  2. See this subject fully considered by Bingham, Eccles. Antiq. Bk. XVI. c. x.; Bk. XVIII. c. IV. He quotes Hermas, Clem. Alex., Tertull., Origen, the Council of Eliberis, Ambros., Augustine, &c.; see especially Bk. XVIII. c. IV. § 1.
  3. Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, pp. 20, 254, 339; Tertullian, De Pudicitia, c. 19; see also Lardner, Hist. of Heretics, Bk. II. ch. XIX. sect. 8; Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. Cent. II. pt. II. ch. V.
  4. μὲν οὖν ἐξ ἐθνῶν καὶ τῆς προβιότητος ἐκείνης ἐπὶ τὴν πίστιν ὁρμήσας, ἅπαξ ἔτυχεν ἀϕέσεως ἁμαρτιῶν. ὁ δὲ καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἁμαρτήσας, εἶτα μετανοῶν, κᾷν συγγνώμης τυγχάνῃ, αἰδεῖσθαι ὀϕείλει, μηκέτι λουόμενος εἰς ἄϕεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν . . . . δόκησις τοινυν μετανοίας, οὐ μετάνοια, τὸ πολλάκις αἰτεῖσθαι συγγνώμην, ἐϕ’ οἷς πλημμελοῦμεν πολλάκις. — Stromat. II. § 13, p. 460.
  5. Herm. Past. Mandat. IV. 3; Cotel. p. 96.
  6. Consult Cotelerius’s note on this passage of Hermas.
  7. So his words are explained by Lumper, Hist. Theolog. Crit. Tom. iv. p. 388. Bp. Jeremy Taylor writes, “Whereas some of them” (i. e. of the fathers) “use to say that after baptism, or after the first relapse, they are ‘unpardonable,’ we must know that in the style of the Church, ‘unpardonable’ signifies such to which, by the discipline and customs of the Church, pardon may not be ministered. They were called ‘unpardonable,’ not because God would not pardon them, but because He alone could.” — On Repentance, ch. IX. § 3. All that is said in this section about the fathers’ doctrine of repentance is well worth reading.
  8. Origen. Tract. 35 in Matthæum; see Abp. Potter’s note on the before-cited passage of Clem. Alex.
  9. The letter is in the collection of the letters of Cyprian, Epis. XXX.
  10. H. E. VI. 43; ὡς μηκέτ’ οὔσης αὐτοῖς σωτηρίας ἐλπίδος. So Epiphan. Adv. Hær. Hær. XXXIX. λέγων μὴ εἶναι σωτηρίαν, ἀλλὰ μίαν μετάνοιαν.
  11. Epist. 55, juxta finem. There he describes the Novatians as urging repentance, but excluding from peace: “hortari ad satisfactionis pœnitentiam, et subtrahere de satisfactione medicinam; dicere fratribus nostris, plange et lacrymas funde, et diebus ac noctibus ingemisce, et pro abluendo et purgando delicto tuo largiter et frequenter operare, sed extra ecclesiam post omnia ista morieris: quæcumque ad pacem pertinent, facies, sed nullam pacem, quam quæris, accipies.”
  12. “Igitur, hoc nullum habet dubium, adultam ecclesiam Novatianam non modo perfidos Christianos, verum etiam omnium capitalium criminum reos alienos a se voluisse.” — Mosheim, De Rebus ante Constant. Magnum, sæc. tertium, § XVI.
  13. H. E. VI. 43, juxta finem.
  14. See Cyprian, Eusebius, and Epiphanius, as above; Mosheim, De Rebus ante Constant. Magnum, sæc. III. §§ XV. XVI.; Lardner, III. pt. II. ch. 47; Cave, Histor. Liter. Tom. I. p. 91.
  15. “Pœnitenti, operanti, roganti, potest (Deus) clementer ignoscere . . . . dat Ille et arma rursus quibus victus armetur, reparat et corroborat vires, quibus fides instaurata vegetetur. Repetet certamen suum miles, iterabit aciem, provocabit hostem, et quidem factus ad prœlium fortior per dolorem. Qui sic Deo satisfecerit, qui pœnitentia facti sui, qui pudore delicti, plus et virtutis et fidei de ipso lapsus sui dolore conceperit, exauditus et adjutus a Domino, quam contristaverat nuper, lætam faciet Ecclesiam: nec jam solam Dei veniam merebitur, sed coronam.” Cypr. De Lapsis, fin. p. 138.
  16. Οἶδα καὶ πέμπτον (βάπτισμα) ἔτι τῶν δακρύων, ἀλλ’ ἐπιπονώτερον. ὡς ὁ λούων καθ’ ἑκάστην νύκτα τὴν κλίνην αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὴν στρωμενὴν τοῖς δάκρυσιν . . . . ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν (ἄνθρωπος εἶναι γὰρ ὁμολογῶ ζῶον τρεπτὸν καὶ ῥευστῆς ϕύσεως) καὶ δέχομαι τοῦτο πρoθύμως, καὶ προσκυνῶ τὸν δεδωκότα, καὶ τοῖς ἅλλοις μεταδίδωμι καὶ προεισϕέρω τοῦ ἐλέου τὸν ἔλεον. Οἶδα γὰρ καὶ αὐτὸς ἀσθένειαν περικείμενος, καὶ ὡς ἂν μετρήσω, μετρηθησόμενος. Σὺ δὲ τί λέγεις; τί νομοθετεῖς, ὦ νέε ϕαρισαῖε, καὶ καθαρὲ τὴν προσηγορίαν, οὐ τὴν προαίρεσιν, καὶ ϕυσῶν ἡμῖν Ναυατοῦ τὰ μετὰ τῆς αὐτῆς ἀσθενείας; οὐ δέχῃ μετάνοιαν; οὐ δίδως ὀδυρμοῖς χώραν; οὐ δακρύεις δάκρυον; Μὴ σύ γε τοιούτου κριτοῦ τύχοις . . . . οὐδὲ τὸν Δαβὶδ δέχῃ μετανοοῦντα, καὶ τὸ προϕητικὸν χάρισμα ἡ μετάνοια συνετήοησεν; οὐδὲ Πέτρον τὸν μέγαν παθόντά τι ἀνθρώπινον περὶ τὸ σωτήριον πάθος; . . . . οὐδὲ τὸν ἐν Κορίνθῳ παρανομήσαντα; Παῦλος δὲ καὶ ἀγάπην ἐκύρωσεν, ἐπειδὴ τὴν διόρθωσιν εἶδε, καὶ τὸ αἴτιον, ἵνα μὴ τῃ περισσοτέρᾳ λύπῃ καταποθῇ ὁ τοιοῦτος. — Greg. Naz. Orat. 39, Tom. I. p. 634, Col. 1690.
  17. “Unde liquet eos inter Christi discipulos non esse habendos, qui dura pro mitibus, superba pro humilibus sequenda opinantur; et cum ipsi quærant Domini misericordiam, aliis eam denegant; ut sunt doctores Novatianorum, qui mundos se appellant.” — De Pœnitentia, Lib. I. c. I.
  18. “Sed Deus distinctionem non facit, qui miseridocridam suam promisit omnibus, et relaxandi licentiam omnibus sacerdotibus suis sine ulla exceptione concessit. Sed qui culpam exaggeravit, exaggeret etiam pœnitentiam.” — Ibid. c. 2.
  19. Epiphan. Hæres. 61.
  20. Epiphan. Hæres. 63; August. Hæres. 48.
  21. Hieron. Adv. Luciferianos, Tom. IV. pt. II. p. 290, seq.
  22. Confess. Augs. Art. XI.; Sylloge, p. 172.
  23. Lectures, III. p. 436.
  24. Conc. Trid. Sess. XIV. Can. I. IV. &c.; Sarpi, p. 326.
  25. “De pœnitentia docent, quod lapsis post baptismum contingere possit remissio peccatorum, quocunque tempore cum convertuntur. Et quod ecclesia talibus redeuntibus ad pœnitentiam impertire absolutionem debeat.” — Conf. August. Art. XI.; Syll. p. 172.
  26. “Docemus interim semper et omnibus peccatoribus aditum patere ad Deum, et hunc omnino omnibus fidelibus condonare peccata, excepto uno illo peccato in Spiritum Sanctum. Ideoque damnamus et veteres et novos Novatianos atque Catharos.” — Confess. Helvet. Art. XIV.; Syllog. p. 50.
  27. Homily of Salvation, pt. I.
  28. Homily of Salvation, pt. II.
  29. Homily of Repentance, pt. I.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Athanas. In Illud Evangelii, Quicunque dixerit.
  32. Athan. Quæstiones ad Antiochum, Quæst. LXXI. LXXII.
  33. οὐκ ἀϕεθήσεται οὐδὲ μετανοοῦσι. — Chrysost. Homil. XLI. in Matt. ap. Suic. Tom. I. p. 700.
  34. Augustin. Epist. ad Romanos Expositio inchoata, 14‒23. Tom. III. par. II. p. 933‒940. See especially, c. 22, p. 939: “Si ergo nec Paganis, nec Hebræis, nec hæreticis, nec schismaticis nondum baptizatis ad baptismum Christi aditus clauditur, ubi condemnata vita priore in melius commutentur; quamvis Christianitati et Ecclesiæ Dei adversantes antequam Christianis sacramentis abluerentur, etiam Spiritui Sancto quanta potuerunt infestatione restiterint; si etiam hominibus, qui usque ad sacramentorum perceptionem veritatis scientiam perceperint, et post hæc lapsi Spiritui Sancto restiterunt, ad sanitatem redeuntibus et pacem Dei pœnitendo quærentibus, auxilium misericordiæ non negatur; si denique de illis ipsis, quibus blasphemiam in Spiritum Sanctum ab eis prolatam Dominus objecit, si qui resipiscentes ad Dei gratiam confugerunt, sine ulla dubitatione sanati sunt: quid aliud restat nisi, ut peccatum in Spiritum Sanctum, quod neque in hoc sæculo neque in futuro dimitti Dominus dicit, nullum intelligatur nisi perseverantia in nequitia et in malignitate, cum desperatione indulgentiæ Dei?”
  35. See Marshall’s Penitential Discipline, especially ch. II. pt. II. § 1, and Appendix, Num. I.; Gregory Nyssen’s Canonical Epistle to Letoius.
  36. Concil. Ancyrani, Can. XX.; Beveridge, Pandect. Tom. I. p. 397.
  37. Can. VI.; Beveridge, I. p. 380.
  38. Can. VIII.; Beveridge, I. 382.
  39. De Prædestinatione, § 27, Tom. X. p. 808; De Dono Perseverantiæ, § 53, Tom. X. p. 851.
  40. Dialog. p. 267.
  41. “Dedit ergo Deus bonum, quemadmodum et Apostolus testificatur in eadem epistola, et qui operantur quidem illud, gloriam et honorem percipient, quoniam operati sunt bonum, cum possint non operari illud; hi autem qui illud non operantur, judicium justum recipient Dei, quoniam non sunt operati bonum, cum possint operari illud.” — Adv. Hær. IV. 71.
  42. “Quemadmodum enim in hominibus indicto audientes patribus filii abdicati, natura quidem filii eorum sunt, lege vero alienati sunt, non enim hæredes fiunt naturalium parentum: eodem modo apud Deum, qui non obediunt Ei, abdicati ab Eo, desierunt filii Ejus esse . . . Verum quando credunt et subjecti esse Deo perseverant et doctrinam Ejus custodiunt, filii sunt Dei; cum autem abscesserint, et transgressi fuerint, Diabolo adscribuntur principi, ei qui primo sibi, tunc et reliquis causa abscessionis factus est.” — Ibid. IV. 80. See also Beaven’s Irenæus, p. 166.
  43. γνωστικὸς δὲ ᾧν μὲν κέκτηται παραμονὴν, ἐπιτηδειότητα δὲ εἰς ἅ μέλλει ἀποβαίνειν, καὶ ἀïδιότητα ὦν λήψεται, αἰτήσεται. — Strom. Lib. VII. 7, p. 857.
  44. “Nemo autem Christianus, nisi qui ad finem usque perseveraverit.” — De Præscript. Hæretic. c. 3.
  45. De Pudicitia, c. 19.
  46. Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 340.
  47. De Corrept. et Grat. § 14.
  48. Ibid. § 16.
  49. De Dono Perseverantiæ, Opp. Tom. X. p. 822. See especially §§ 1, 6, 7, 10, 15, 19.
  50. “Ex duobus autem piis, cur huic donetur perseverantia usque ad finem, illi non donetur, inscrutabiliora sunt judicia Dei . . . Nonne postremo utrique vocati fuerant, et vocantem secuti, utrique ex impiis justificati, et per lavacrum regenerationis utrique renovati? Sed si hæc audiret ille, qui sciebat procul dubio quod dicebat, respondere posset et dicere: Vera sunt hæc, secundum hæc omnia ex nobis erant; verumtamen secundum aliam quandam discretionem non erant ex nobis, nam si fuissent ex nobis, mansissent utique nobiscum.” — Ibid. § 21.
  51. See especially De Corrept. et Grat. 20, 22; De Dono Perseverantiæ, 1, 21, 32, 33, &c.
  52. De Don. Persev. 19.
  53. “Utrum quisque hoc munus acceperit, quam diu hanc vitam ducit, incertum est. Si enim prius quam moriatur cadat, non perseverasse utique dicitur, et verissime dicitur.” — Ibid. § 1.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Ibid. § 32.
  56. See ante, note 5, p. 375, and De Dono Perseverantiæ, passim.
  57. Sarpi, p. 197.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Ibid. p. 200.
  60. Opp. Tom. v. p. 197.
  61. Opp. Tom. v. p. 405.
  62. “Damnant et Anabaptistas, qui negant semel justificatos iterum posse amittere Spiritum Sanctum.” — Sylloge, p. 173.
  63. “Quid hinc nos discere voluit Christus, nisi ut confidamus perpetuo nos fore salvos, quia illius semel facti sumus?” &c. — Institut. Lib. III. c. xxiv. 6, 7.
  64. Formularies of Faith in the Reign of Henry the Eighth, p. 367.
  65. The Vth and VIth Articles as drawn by Whitaker were, — “V. Vera, viva, et justificans fides et Spiritus Dei Sanctificans non extinguitur, non excidit, non evanescit in iis qui semel ejus participes fuerunt, aut totaliter aut finaliter. “VI. Homo vere fidelis, id est fide justificante præditus, certus est certitudine fidei, de remissione peccatorum suorum et salute sempiterna sua per Christum.” In the Vth the Lambeth Divines for in iis qui semel ejus participes fuerunt, substituted in electis. In the VIth for certitudine they substituted plerophoria. — See Strype’s Whitgift, L. IV. c. 17.
  66. Cardwell, Hist. of Conferences, p. 178.

E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

'Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article XVI (Part 1)' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

(c) 2024 North American Anglican