Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article XX

Article XX.

Of the Authority of the Church.

THE Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything 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 anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.

De Ecclesiæ Authoritate.

HABET Ecclesia ritus sive cæremonias statuendi jus, et in fidei controversiis authoritatem; quamvis Ecclesiæ non licet quicquam instituere, quod verbo Dei scripto adversetur, nec unum scripturæ locum sic exponere potest, ut alteri contradicat. Quare licet Ecclesia sit divinorum librorum testis et conservatrix, attamen ut adversus eos nihil decernere, ita præter illos nihil credendum de necessitate salutis debet obtrudere.

Section I. — History.

THE history of this Article is famous, owing to the dispute concerning the first clause of it: “The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith.” The Article of 1552 (then the XXIst Article) had not the clause. Moreover, the first draught of the Articles in Elizabeth’s reign (A. D. 1562) had it not. In this form the Articles were signed by both houses of convocation; and the original document so signed, is now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Yet this document had never synodical authority, for it never received the ratification of the crown. Before the royal assent was given, some alterations were made: namely, the addition of this clause, and the omission of Article XXIX. The clause itself was taken from the Lutheran Confession of Wurtemberg, from which source Archbishop Parker derived most of the additions which were made in Queen Elizabeth’s reign to the Articles drawn up by Crammer in the reign of Edward VI.[1] It is supposed that the Queen’s wish induced the council to make this alteration. And when it had been made, the Latin edition of R. Wolfe was published in 1563, printed by the Queen’s command, and with a declaration of her royal approval. This copy, therefore, is considered as possessed of full synodical authority. The fine English edition, printed by Jugge and Cawood in 1563, has not the clause,[2] and this is very probably the copy of the Articles submitted to Parliament, which passed an Act (13 Eliz. Cap. 12) giving the authority of statute law to what had already received the authority of the Queen and convocation.

After this, the printed copies varied, some omitting, but most retaining the clause. It does not appear that any English copy received the authority of convocation till 1571; and then, no doubt, the copy corresponded with one of those printed by Jugge and Cawood, with the date 1571. Dr. Cardwell gives an accurate reprint of one of these, containing the disputed clause.[3] Yet there were other editions, put forth by the same printers, with the same date 1571, some retaining, others omitting the clause. From that time the greater number of editions have the clause. Dr. Cardwell enumerates editions of 1563, 1571, as omitting it; and as retaining it, editions of 1563, 1571, 1581, 1586, 1593, 1612, 1624, 1628, and all subsequent editions.[4] All subscriptions, therefore, and acts of Parliament, after this period, had reference to the Article with the first clause as forming part of it; and not to the form in which it was first passed by convocation, before the Queen’s sanction was obtained.

Important as the question concerning this clause has been thought, it is truly observed that that portion of it concerning rites and ceremonies is fully expressed in Article XXXIV.; and that that portion which concerns controversies of faith is virtually contained in the latter part of this Article itself.

It is not necessary to spend much time in proving that the primitive Church claimed a certain authority, both in matters of ceremony and in controversies of faith. This is self-apparent from the fact, that, when any disputes arose, whether of doctrine or of discipline, synods and councils continually met to decide upon them, and declare the judgment of the Church. Where a judgment is pronounced, authority must be claimed. The first general council of Nice was assembled for the express purpose of giving the judgment of the Church, represented by the fathers of that council, on a most important point of doctrine, namely, the Deity of the Son of God, and on a matter of ceremony, namely, the time of keeping Easter. The Epistle of Constantine to the Churches, written as it were from the council, urges all Christians to receive the decrees of the bishops so assembled as the will of God.[5]

The fathers certainly taught that the authority of the Church was to be obeyed and received with deep respect. Irenæus says, “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God . . . . but the Spirit is truth.”[6] Tertullian, “Every doctrine is to be judged as false which is opposed to the truth taught by the Churches, the Apostles, Christ, and God.”[7] St. Cyril says, “The Church is called Catholic, because it teaches universally, and without omission, all doctrines needful to be known.”[8] Passages to the same purport might be abundantly multiplied, if evidences of so well-known a fact could be required.

When controversies arose, whether about doctrine, or about rules and ceremonies and Church-ordinances, such as the keeping of Easter, the rebaptizing of heretics, or the enforcing of discipline on the lapsed, it could hardly be but that the Church should exercise some discretion, and pronounce some judgment. Most of the canons of the early councils will be found to be on matters of discipline; and as Scripture generally left them undecided, it was necessary for the representatives of the Church to use the best judgment they could upon them. To this end they strove, looking for the guidance of the Spirit, following Scripture where it gave them light, and on those points on which Scripture was silent, following that rule unanimously adopted at Nice, “Let the ancient customs prevail,” τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω.[9]

Yet, that the fathers held the authority of Scripture to be primary and paramount, and considered that the Church had no power to enact new articles of faith, nor to decree anything which was contrary to the Scriptures, has already been shown sufficiently, and the proof needs not to be repeated here.[10] The power of the Church they held, not as an authority superior or equal to the Scriptures, but as declaratory of them when doubtful, and decretory on matters of discipline.

The reformers in general did not deny such authority to the Church, to interpret Scripture in case of disputes upon doctrine, nor to adopt or retain ceremonies of ancient custom or human institution, not contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Thus the Confession of Augsburg says, “We do not despise the consent of the Catholic Church . . . . nor are we willing to patronize impious opinions, which the Church Catholic has condemned.”[11] It declares that there are indifferent ceremonies, which ought to be observed for the good order of the Church.[12] But on the other hand, it pronounces that “the bishops have no power to decree anything contrary to the Gospel.”[13]

Calvin, denying that the Church has any power to introduce new doctrines, yet gladly admits, that when a discussion concerning doctrine arises, no more fit mode of settling it can be devised than a meeting of bishops to discuss it. And he mentions with approbation the Councils of Nice, Constantinople, and Ephesus.[14]

The language of the English reformers is still plainer. The Preface to the Book of Common Prayer gives reasons why the Church abolished some and retained other ceremonies; and though it speaks of ceremonies as but small things in themselves, it yet declares that the wilful transgression “and breaking of a common rule and discipline is no small offence before God.”

Cranmer appealed to a general council, protesting, “I intend to speak nothing against one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, or the authority thereof; the which authority I have in great reverence, and to whom my mind is in all things to obey:”[15] and declaring, “I may err, but heretic I cannot be; forasmuch as I am ready in all things to follow the judgment of the most sacred word of God, and of the holy Catholic Church.”[16] He declares his agreement with Vincentius Lirinensis, who taught that “the Bible is perfect and sufficient of itself for the truth of the Catholic faith, and that the whole Church cannot make one article of faith; although it may be taken as a necessary witness of the same, with these three conditions, that the thing which we would establish thereby hath been believed in all places, ever, and of all men.”[17] In short, his judgment appears to have been clearly, that “every exposition of Scripture in which the whole Church agreed,” was to be received; but that the Church had no power to decree Articles of faith without the Scripture, though rites indifferent she might decree.[18]

The origin of the dispute about the first clause in this Article was the repugnance of the Puritan divines to the use of the surplice and other Church ordinances. This feeling arose in the reign of Edward VI., and the controversies gendered by it continued to rage fiercely in Elizabeth’s. The Puritans contended, not only that the Church could not enact new articles of faith, but that no rites nor ceremonies were admissible but those for which there was plain warrant in the new Testament. It is probable that Elizabeth and her councillors wished to have a definite assertion of the power of the Church to legislate on such points; and therefore insisted on the distinct enunciation of the principle by the clause in question, notwithstanding that it was virtually included in other statements or formularies. The controversy reached its height in the reign of Charles I.; and one of the charges against Archbishop Laud was, that he had introduced this clause into the Articles, it not having been previously to be found there.[19] On the subject itself the great work of Hooker was composed; one main and principal object of that work being to prove the right which the Church Catholic and particular national Churches have to legislate on matters indifferent, and to enact such rites and ceremonies as are not repugnant to the teaching of Holy Writ.

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

THERE are contained in this Article three positive or affirmative, and two negative or restraining assertions. I. The affirmative are: — 1. The Church is a witness and keeper of Holy Writ. 2. The Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies. 3. The Church hath authority in controversies of faith.

II. The restraining assertions are: — 1. It is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written. 2. Besides the written word, she ought not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation.

I. 1. The Church is a witness and keeper of Holy Writ, for asmuch as that unto it, as unto the Jews of old, “are committed the oracles of God” (Rom. iii. 2). As the Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures “read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day” (Acts xv. 21); so the Christian Church has the Scriptures of both Testaments read continually in her assemblies. In no way can she more truly fulfil her office of “pillar and ground of the truth” than by preserving and maintaining those Scriptures in which the truth is to be found. The Scriptures are a sacred deposit left to the Church, to guard and to teach. The manner in which the ancient Churches collected and preserved the sacred writings, and handed them down to us, and the abundant evidence which we have that they have been received by us in their integrity, were considered at length under Art. VI.[20]

We, the children of the Church, must, in the first instance at least, receive the word of God from her. She, by our parents and her ministers, puts the Bible into our hands, even before we could seek it for ourselves. To her care her Lord has intrusted it. She keeps it, and testifies to us that it is the word of God, and teaches us the truths contained in it. Her ministers are enjoined “to hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. i. 13); “to preach the word instant in season and out of season” (2 Tim. iv. 2). And so she leads us, by preaching and catechizing, and other modes of instruction, to take the Bible in our hands, and read it for ourselves.

In these and many similar modes, the Church is a witness, as well as a keeper of Holy Writ. We can hardly conceive a state of things in which it could be otherwise. If the Church had not carefully guarded the Scriptures at first, they would have been scattered and lost, and spurious writings would have partially taken the place of the true. If she did not, by her teaching and her ministry, witness to us that the Scriptures were from above, and so lead us to read and reverence them, we should be obliged to wait till the full maturity of reason and manhood before we could learn what was the word of truth, and should then have patiently to go through for ourselves all the evidence which might be necessary to convince us that the Bible, and not the Koran or the Veda, was that which contained “the lively oracles of God.”

2. The Church has power to decree rites and ceremonies.

In the term “rites and ceremonies” of course we do not include things of the same nature as Sacraments, or other ordinances of the Gospel. Two Sacraments were ordained of Christ, and the Church cannot make others like them. Ordination is from Christ’s authority, and we learn from Scripture that it is to be performed by imposition of hands. The Church cannot alter this, either by dispensing with it, or putting something different in its room. By “rites and ceremonies,” therefore, are meant things comparatively indifferent in themselves, — the adjuncts and accidents, not the essence and substance of holy things.

Certain rules are specially prescribed to us in Holy Scripture for regulating public worship, and for ministering the ordinances of God. But these rules are mostly general, and the carrying out of them must be regulated by some authority or other. The rules given are such as the following: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. xiv. 26, 40). Yet how to arrange all things so that they should be done decently and in order, we are not always told. Occasionally, indeed, the Apostles gave something like specific directions; as, for instance, St. James’s command not to allow the poor to sit in a low place, and the rich in a good place (James ii. 1, 10); St. Paul’s directions about the seemly administration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. xi. 17‒33) ; and again, St. Paul’s command that men should be uncovered and women veiled (1 Cor. xi. 4‒16), and that women should keep silence in the churches (1 Cor, xiv. 34). Yet, though in these few points there may be something like fixed rules laid down, the Church is generally left to arrange so that in her public worship all things should be done “decently, in order, and to edifying,” without specific directions for every particular. Nay! St. Paul, when so strongly insisting on men being uncovered and women covered, concludes by arguing that, if any people are disposed to be contentious on this head, they ought to yield their own judgment to the customs of the Church. “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God” (1 Cor. xi. 16). Thus, therefore, the very principle laid down in Scripture seems to be that the Church should order and arrange the details of public worship, so as may be most calculated to honour God and edify the people; just as St. Paul left Titus at Crete “that he might set in order the things which were wanting” in the Church of that land (Tit. i. 5). Indeed, unless by authority some rules for public worship were made, decency and order could never exist. Thus, whether prayer should be of set form or extempore — whether the minister should wear a peculiar dress — whether baptism should be by immersion or by pouring — whether at the Eucharist we should kneel or sit, and numerous other like questions, have all reference to rites and ceremonies. If the public authority of the Church could not enjoin anything concerning them, what utter confusion might exist in our assemblies! At one time prayer might be extempore, and at another from a prayer-book. One minister might wear a surplice, another an academic gown, a third his common walking-dress, and a fourth a cope, or some fantastic device of his own. One person might kneel, another stand, and another sit at receiving the Communion. Would any one coming in to such an assembly “report that God was in us of a truth?” And with the variety of opinion and feeling among Christians, much worse than this might easily occur, if the Church had no power to decree its rites and ceremonies. Yet we are taught concerning this very matter of decent solemnity, that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. xiv. 33).

Thus then the injunctions of the Apostles, and the absolute necessity of the case, lead to the conclusion that the Church must have “power to decree rites and ceremonies.” And we may add, that all bodies of Christians, however opposed to ceremonial, have yet exercised the power of decreeing rites for their own bodies. However bare and free from ornament their public worship may be, yet in some way or other it is ordered and regulated, if it be public worship at all. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ministered with some degree of regularity; preaching and praying are arranged after some kind of order; and how simple soever that order may be, it is an order derived from the authority of their own body, and not expressly prescribed in Scripture. Scripture teaches all things essential for salvation; but all minutiae of ceremonial it neither teaches nor professes to teach. Such therefore must be left, in some degree, to the authority and wisdom of the Church.[21]

3. The Church has, moreover, authority in controversies of faith. This statement of the Article as necessarily follows from the nature of the case as the two already considered. It is only necessary to keep in mind the qualifications which the latter part of the Article suggests.

Our Lord gave authority to His Church to bind and to loose, and to excommunicate those who would not hear the church. The Apostles enjoined that heretics, persons that teach false doctrine or deny the truth, should be shunned, excommunicated, and put out of the Church.[22] Now, if the Church has no power to determine what is true and what is false, such authority would be a dead letter, and the Apostles’ injunctions would be vain. All heretics claim Scripture as on their side. If the Church is not allowed to exercise authority in controversies of faith, she could never reject heretics, unless indeed they went so far as to deny the truth of Scripture altogether. In order therefore to exercise that discipline and power of the Keys which Christ committed to her, the Church must have authority to decide on what is truth, and what is falsehood.

The Church is a society founded by God, for the very purpose of preserving, maintaining, and propagating the truth. If she had no power to discern truth from error, how would this be possible? Her ministers are enjoined to teach and to preach the truth of the Gospel; not simply to put the Bible into the hands of the people, and leave them to read it. Their commission is, “Go and teach all nations . . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt, xxviii. 19, 20). They are “by sound doctrine to convince the gainsayers” (Tit. i. 9). They are “to feed the Church of God” (Acts xx. 28): to give “the household of God their portion of meat in due season” (Luke xii. 42). The chief pastors of the Church are to “commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,” that truth which they have themselves received (2 Tim. ii. 2). And they are enjoined to “rebuke men sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. i. 13).

All this implies authority, — authority to declare truth, to maintain truth, to discern truth from error, to judge when controversies arise, whether one party is heretical or not, and to reject from communion such as are in grievous falsehood and error.

There are promises to the Church, and titles of the Church, which confirm these arguments. The Church is called “an holy temple in the Lord . . . . a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. ii. 21, 22). Individual Christians believe that they shall be guided into truth by the indwelling Spirit of God; how much more therefore that Church which is not only composed of the various individual Christians, who are partakers of the Spirit, but is also itself built up for God’s Spirit to dwell in it? Our blessed Lord promises to His Church, that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against it” (Matt. xvi. 18); and that He will be with its pastors “always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt, xxviii. 20). Such a promise implies the constant presence, assistance, and guidance of Him who is the Church’s Head, and His assurance that the power of evil shall never be able to destroy the faith of the Church, or take away God’s truth from it; for, if once the faith of the Church should fail, the Church itself must fail with it. Hence the Church, having always the presence and guidance of Christ, the indwelling of His Spirit, and the assurance that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her; we must conclude that the Church will be guarded against anything like universal or fundamental error. And so we may say, that she not only is authorized to give judgments in matters of faith, but also has a promise of direction in judging.

This further appears from the Church being called “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. iii. 15). Bishop Burnet contends that this is a metaphor, and that we must not argue too much on metaphor. But, if we never try to understand the figures of Scripture, we must neglect a very large and most important portion of Scripture. Indeed, almost all that is taught us about God and the world of spirits is taught us in figurative language, because it is above our common comprehension, and therefore conveyed to us by parables and metaphors. And the figure here is a very obvious one. It may mean a little more, or a little less, but its general meaning is plain enough. And that meaning surely is, that God has appointed His Church in the world, that it may hold fast, support, and maintain the truth: and not only is it ordained for this end, but as all God’s ordinances are surely fitted for their purpose, so the Church is qualified also to uphold the truth which is committed to it.

Therefore we conclude, that by God’s appointment, and according to plain language of Scripture, “the Church hath authority in controversies of faith.”

II. But the authority of the Church is not a supreme and independent authority. In matters of faith, it is the authority of a judge, not the authority of a legislator. Truth comes from God, not from the Church. The written word of God is the record of God’s truth; and no other record exists. He alone is the Legislator, and the Scriptures contain the code of laws which He has ordained. To maintain those laws and the truth connected with them, and, so far as possible, to enforce them, is the duty of the Church. But she has no authority either to alter or to add to them.

She may judge therefore, but it must be according to the laws which have been made for her. She has authority, but it is an authority limited by the Scriptures of truth.

Such is the nature of all judicial power. We say the judges of the land have authority to pronounce judgments; but they must pronounce their judgments according to the law. They have no power to alter it, no power to go beyond it. The only power which they have, is to enforce and administer; and, where it is obscure or doubtful, to do their best to interpret it.[23]

This is exactly the limitation which we find that the Article truly assigns to the authority of the Church. She has power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith; but in thus doing: —

1. She must not ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, nor explain one place of Scripture so as to contradict another.

2. Besides the written word, she ought not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.

The first limitation is self-apparent, if we admit the word of God to be the word of God. For whatever authority be assigned to the Church, it would be fearful impiety to give it authority superior to God Himself. It is probable, that this limitation is more particularly intended to apply to the power of ordaining ceremonies, as the second applies to articles of faith. If so, it means that the Church may ordain ceremonies in themselves in different, but she may not ordain any which would be repugnant to the written word. Thus for example, it would mean that forms of prayer, clerical vestments, and the like, are within the province of the Church to decide upon; but image-worship, or the adoration of the host, being contrary to the commandments of God, are beyond her power to sanction or permit.

The second limitation applies to doctrine, and is almost a repetition of a portion of Article VI. already considered.[24] It denies to the Church the power to initiate in matters of faith. She may not enforce upon her children new articles for which there is no authority in the Bible; but may interpret Scripture, and enforce the articles of faith to be deduced from thence.

Hence we may see that the Article determines that there is but one supreme primary authority, that is to say, the written tradition of the will of God, the holy Scriptures, His lively oracles. The authority of the Church is ministerial and declaratory, not absolute and supreme. And the decisions of the Church must always be guided by, and dependent on, the statements and in junctions of the written word of God.[25]


  1. In the Wurtemburg confession are the words: “Credimus et confitemur quod . . . . hæc ecclesia habeat jus judicandi de omnibus doctrinis . . . .quod hæc ecclesia habeat jus interpretandæ Scripturæ.” — Laurence, Bamp. Lect. p. 236.
  2. Though it had not this clause, inserted at the Queen’s desire, yet it omitted Art. XXIX., expunged by the Queen’s desire. The Articles were therefore, as so passed by Parliament, only thirty-eight in number. They are given by Dr. Cardwell, Synodalia, I. p. 53.
  3. Synodal. I. p. 98.
  4. See Cardwell’s Synodalia, I. pp. 34, 53, 73, 90, &c.; and the authorities referred to by him.
  5. Euseb. De Vita Constantin. III. 20.
  6. “Ubi enim ecclesia, ibi et Spiritus Dei; et ubi Spiritus Dei, illic ecclesia et omnis gratia. Spiritus autem veritas.” — Lib. III. cap. 40.
  7. Omnem vero doctrinam de mendacio præjudicandam quæ sapiat contra veritatem Ecclesiarum et Apostolorum et Christi et Dei.” — De Præscript. Hæret. c. 21.
  8. διὰ τὸ διδάσκειν καθολικῶς καὶ ἀνελλειπῶς ἅπαντα τὰ εἰς γνῶσιν ἀνθρώπων ἐλθεῖν ὀϕείλοντα δόγματα. — Cateches. XVIII. 11. See Palmer, On the Church, II. pt. IV. ch. IV.
  9. The principle of observing traditionary ceremonies, where Scripture is silent, is laid down by Tertullian, De Corona, c. 3, 4, 5. See Palmer, II. pt. IV. ch. IV.
  10. See above, p. 147, seq. Article VI. Sect. I. III.
  11. “Non enim aspernamur consensum catholicæ Ecclesiæ . . . . nec patrocinari impiis aut seditiosis opinionibus volumus, quas ecclesia Catholica damnavit.” — Confess. August. 1540. Art. 21; Sylloge, p. 189.
  12. Pars I. Art. XV. 1531; Sylloge, p. 127; 1540, p. 174.
  13. Sylloge, p. 154.
  14. Instit. IV. ix. 13.
  15. Appeal at his Degradation, Works, IV. p. 121.
  16. Ibid. p. 127.
  17. Answer to Smythe’s Preface, III. p. 23.
  18. See especially IV. p. 229, quoted above, in p. 185, under Article VI. See also Works, III. pp. 509, 517; IV. pp. 77, 126, 173, 223, 225, &c.
  19. That this charge is unfounded has already appeared.
  20. See Art. VI. Sect. II.
  21. See on this subject more especially Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Bk. III.
  22. Matt. xviii. 17, 18. Acts xx. 30. 2 Thess. iii. 6. 1 Tim. i. 3; vi. 3. Tit. i 11; iii. 10. See Art. XIX, Sect. II. 5.
  23. In the early councils, it was customary to place the Gospels on a throne or raised platform in the midst of the assembly, to indicate that in them were contained the rules by which the decisions of the council must be framed.
  24. “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, or be thought required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” — Art. VI.
  25. Neither the right nor the duty of Private Judgment, if properly understood, is interfered with by the statements of this Article. It is the duty of every Christian to search the Scriptures in order to learn God’s will from them. Yet this neither supersedes the propriety of individuals paying deference to the judgment of the whole Church, nor does it preclude the Church from forming a judgment. It is the right and the wisdom of every citizen to acquaint himself with the laws of his country, and to endeavour to render them in an intelligent obedience. Yet this does not take away from a competent authority or tribunal the right of pronouncing according to them. The following words of an eminent English divine seem to put the whole question in its true light, and in the light in which our Church has constantly viewed it: “Far am I, by what I have now said, from endeavouring to weaken or undermine the rights of ecclesiastical authority. We do readily acknowledge that every Christian Church in the world has a right and authority to decide controversies in religion that do arise among its members, and consequently to declare the sense of Scripture concerning those controversies. And though we say that every private Christian hath a liberty left him of examining and judging for himself, and which cannot, which ought not to be taken from him; yet every member of a Church ought to submit to the Church’s decisions and declarations so as not to oppose them, not to break the communion or the peace of the church upon account of them, unless in such cases where obedience and compliance is apparently sinful and against God’s laws.” — Archbishop Sharp, Works, V. p. 63. Oxf. 1829. [One great difficulty concerning the authority of the Church in matters of faith arises from the fact that many people seem to expect to hear the Church speaking with definite precise statements in answer to every doubt that may arise, or every question we may choose to put to her; or else they imagine that to be what is or ought to be claimed by the believers in an authoritative Church. But observe: — 1. The only Church that claims to possess that kind of authority has contradicted herself, repeatedly. (See Janus, “The Pope and the Council, cap. III. sect. 3.) 2. That kind of power was never promised to the Church. (St. Matt. xvi. 18, xxviii. 20.) 3. The promises referred to justify us in expecting a general indefectibility, not a special and particular infallibility. 4. This is all that is possible without a second Incarnation; for which, accordingly, Dr. Manning (The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost) against all facts, contends. 5. This authority, is not a vague thing of no practical consequence, but covers all the essentials of Doctrine and Discipline. 6. The voice of the Church is not gathered from a single utterance, but from general consent or from a single utterance ratified by general consent according to the rule of S. Vincent of Lerins. Common. caps. II. III. — J. W.]

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.

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