The Reformation was not the work, either of a year, or of a generation. Its foundation was laid both in the good and in the evil qualities of our nature. Love of truth, reverence for sacred things, a sense of personal responsibility, a desire for the possession of full spiritual privileges, cooperated with the pride of human reason, the natural impatience of restraint, and the envy and hatred inspired among the nobles by a rich and powerful hierarchy, to make the world weary of the Papal domination, and desirous of reform in things spiritual and ecclesiastical.
Wickliffe in England, and Huss and Jerome of Prague in Germany, had long ago given utterance to a feeling which lay deep in the hearts and spread wide among the ranks of thinking men. It was said of Wickliffe, that half of the secular priests in England agreed with him; and his followers long gave serious trouble both to Church and State. On the Continent, the Bohemian Church was rent by faction; and even open war was the result of an obstinate denial of the Cup in the Lord’s Supper to the lay-members of Christ’s Church. The two great Councils of Constance (A. D. 1415) and Basle (A. D. 1431) were the results of the general call for a reformation of abuses: and they left them where they were, or aggravated and strengthened them.
But there was a leaven which could not be prevented from working. The revival of letters and the art of printing taught men how to think, and how to communicate their thoughts. Men, whose character was almost purely literary, contributed not a little to pull down the system which threatened to stifle learning by confounding it with heresy. Amongst these, on every account, the most important and influential was Erasmus. It is thought by many that his Biblical criticism and his learned wit did more to rouse men to reform, than the honest but headlong zeal of Luther. At least, if there had been no Erasmus to precede him, Luther’s voice, if it could not have been stilled, might soon have been stifled. He might not have found both learning and power zealous to protect him, so that he could defy and prove superior to the allied forces of the Emperor and the Pope. But Erasmus was himself alarmed at the spirit he had raised. He had heen zealous for reformation; but he dreaded destruction. And he was the type of many, more in earnest than himself. On both sides of the great controversy, which soon divided Europe into two hostile communities, were many who wished to have abuses eradicated, but who feared to see the fabric of ages shaken to its centre. Some, like Erasmus, remained in communion with Rome; others, like Melancthon, joined the Reformation. The distance in point of sentiment between the more moderate men, thus by force of circumstances arrayed in opposition to each other, was probably but very small. But in the ranks of both parties there were many of a more impetuous and less compromising spirit; and, as the voice of a community is generally expressed in the tones of its loudest speakers, we are apt to look on all the reformers as actuated by a violent animosity to all that was Roman, and on the adherents of Rome as unrelentingly bent to destroy and exterminate all that was Protestant.
While this state of things was pending, and whilst the spirit of inquiry was at least as much alive in England as on the Continent, Henry VIII. was drawn into a difference with the Papal see on the subject of his divorce with Catharine of Aragon. The merits of the question may be debated elsewhere. This much alone we may observe, that Henry, if he acted from principle, not from passion, might have suffered his scruples to weigh with him when his wife was young and well-favoured, not when she had grown old and care-worn; when she brought him a rich dowry, not when he had absorbed and spent it; when he had hopes of a male heir to his throne, not when those hopes had been disappointed, the lady Mary being the sole issue of his alliance. But, whatever the moving cause, he was in hostility to the see of Rome; and his only chance of making head against it was to call up and give strength to the spirit of reformation.
Cranmer had been introduced to him by some casual observations on the best way of settling the question of the divorce; and Cranmer from that time forth Henry steadily favoured and protected. In 1533, the king threw off the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, and declared the independence of his kingdom and of its Church. But it has been said that he rejected the Pope, not the Papacy. The Church was to be independent of Rome, but not independent absolutely. For a spiritual, he substituted a temporal head, and wished to confer on that temporal head — himself — all the ecclesiastical authority which had been enjoyed by the spiritual. Cranmer was now Archbishop of Canterbury. His character has been differently described by those who have taken their views of it from different sides of the question. His greatest enemies can scarcely deny him the virtues of mildness, moderation, and patience, nor the praise of learning and candor. His greatest admirers can hardly affirm that he was free from weakness and timidity, and a too ready compliance with the whims and wishes of those in power. But he had a hard post to fill. Henry had thrown off the power of the Pope, and so had thrown himself into the party of the reformers; but he had no mind to throw off all the errors of Popery, and to go all lengths with the Reformation. Cranmer had often to steer his course warily, lest his bark should make shipwreck altogether; and over-zeal for his cause might provoke the hostility of one whose word was law, and whose will would brook no restraint from an archbishop, when it had dethroned a Pope.
During Henry’s reign, several documents were put forth, varying in their complexion, according as Cranmer had more or less influence with him. The Six Articles nearly swamped the Reformation, and endangered even the archbishop. The Bishops’ Book, or the Institution of a Christian Man, was a confession of faith set forth when Cranmer and Ridley were in the ascendant. But it was succeeded by the King’s Book, the Necessary Doctrine, which was the king’s modification of the Bishops’ Book, in which Gardiner had greater influence, and which restored some of those doctrines of the Roman communion which the Bishops’ Book had discarded.
Cranmer was himself not as yet fully settled in his views. He had early split with the Papacy, and convinced himself of the need of reformation, and of the general defection from the faith of the Scriptures and the primitive Church. But he was some time before he gave up the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and other opinions in which he had been educated. The bishops and clergy in general were far less disposed to reformation than the king or the archbishop. It was rather by an exercise of regal prerogative than by the force of persuasion, that changes were effected, even to the extent which took place in Henry’s reign. It was also not much to the taste of the clergy, that they should be forced to pay the same obedience to a temporal which they had hitherto paid to a spiritual head: especially when Henry seemed to claim, and Cranmer, at least for a time, to sanction, spiritual obedience to such a temporal authority; and most of all when Henry had given marked indications, that, instead of mak ing lighter the yoke which the Pope had put upon them, his little finger would be thicker than the Pope’s loins. But neither clergy nor people were allowed to speak louder than the king chose to suffer. Convocation, both in this reign and the next, had little weight, and was not often consulted.
However, in Henry’s reign many important steps were taken. The Church was declared independent of Rome. The Bible was translated into English. So also were many portions of the Church service. Negotiations were opened with the German Reformers, especially with Melancthon, whom Henry and Cranmer besought in vain to come over and help them. And in 1538, in consequence of conferences between Cranmer and the German divines, a body of thirteen articles was drawn up, in great measure agreeing with the Confession of Augsburg.
On the accession of Edward VI., who was himself a zealous partisan of the Reformation, greater changes were speedily made. In 1547 the first book of Homilies was put forth. In 1548 “The Archbishop of Canterbury with other learned and discreet bishops and divines” were appointed “by the king to draw an order of divine worship, having respect to the pure religion of Christ taught in the Scripture, and to the practice of the primitive Church.” This commission is said to liave consisted of Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Day, Bishop of Chichester; Goodrich, Bishop of Ely; Skip, Bishop of Hereford; Holbeach, of Lincoln; Ridley, of Rochester; Thirlby, of Westminster; May, Dean of St. Paul’s; Taylor, Dean of Lincoln; Haynes, Dean of Exeter; Robertson, Archdeacon of Leicester; Redmayne, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge; Cox, almoner to the king and Dean of Westminster and Christ Church. These commissioners, or a portion of them, drew up the first Service Book of Edward VI., which was approved by Convocation, and confirmed by both Houses of Parliament. The principal sources from which it was derived were the ancient offices of the Church of England, and with them very probably the Liturgy drawn up by Melancthon and Bucer, at the request of Herman, Archbishop of Cologne, for the use of his diocese, which had been principally derived from the ancient liturgy of Nuremberg.
The same year, Cranmer translated a Catechism written by Justus Jonas, which he put forth with his own authority, and which is commonly called Cranmer’s Catechism. The Calvinistic reform ers of the Continent made many objections to the Liturgy as drawn up in 1548; and many English divines entertained similar scruples. It is probable that the clergy at large were not desirous of farther reformation. But the king and the archbishop were both anxious for a revision, which should do away with any appearance of giving sanction to Roman superstitions. Accordingly an order was given to prepare a new Service Book. The king and his council were most zealous in favor of the change, and it is even said that the king declared, in a spirit like his father’s, that, if the bishops would make the desired change, he would interpose his own supreme authority to enforce its acceptance.
The new Service Book was put forth in 1552, and, with few exceptions, although these few are very important, it is the same as that we now possess under the name of the Book of Common Prayer.
The Convocation was not permitted to pass its judgment on it, because it would, in all probability, have thrown all possible difficulties in the way of its publication. It came forth with the authority of Parliament; though the act which enjoined its accept ance declared that the objections to the former book were rather curious than reasonable.
The same year saw the publication of the forty-two “Articles of Religion.” They were framed by the archbishop at the king’s command, and committed to certain bishops to be inspected and approved by them. They were then returned to the archbishop and amended by him; he then sent them to Sir William Cecil and Sir John Cheke, who agreed that the archbishop should offer them to the king, which accordingly he did. They were then communicated to some other divines, and returned once more to the archbishop. The archbishop made his last remarks upon them, and so returned them again in three days to the council, beseeching them to prevail with the king to give authority to the bishops to cause their respective clergy to subscribe them.
It has been doubted whether these articles, thus drawn up, were ever sanctioned by Convocation. Dr. Cardwell, in his Synodalia, has given good reason to think that they received full synodical authority.
It has been shown by Archbishop Laurence and others, that the Lutheran Confessions of Faith, especially the Confession of Augsburg, were the chief sources to which Cranmer was indebted for the Articles of 1552. He did not servilely follow, but yet made copious use of them.
The chief assistant to Cranmer, both in this labor and in the translations and revisions of the Liturgy, was unquestionably his great friend and counsellor, Ridley. It is well known that he had material influence in inducing the archbishop to renounce the doctrine of Transubstantiation and to embrace that of the Spiritual Presence; and the Romanist party of the day asserted that Cranmer derived all his learning from Ridley. However untrue this may be, it is pretty certain that they always acted in concert. In the drawing up of the first Service Book, Ridley was one of the commissioners; and no doubt, next to Cranmer, had a principal hand in compiling and afterwards revising it. Some of the commissioners protested against the passing the act for authorizing the first book, inasmuch as it went beyond their views of liturgical reform. But Ridley showed the greatest zeal to induce conformity both to it, and to the Second Service Book, which was far more extensively reformed. And indeed throughout, Cranmer and he appear to have walked in the same course, and acted on the same principles.
It is of consequence to remember these facts. For, if Cranmer and Ridley were the chief compilers both of the Prayer Book and of the Articles, although the Church is in no degree bound by their private opinions, yet, when there is a difficulty in understand ing a clause either in the Articles or the Liturgy, which are the two standards of authority as regards the doctrine of the English Church, it cannot but be desirable to elucidate such difficulties by appealing to the writings and otherwise expressed opinions of these two reformers. It is true, both Liturgy and Articles have been altered since their time. Yet by far the larger portion of both remains just as they left them. The Convocation appears to have made little alteration in the Articles, and none in the Liturgy in Edward’s reign; for the Second Service Book was not submitted to it, and it has been even doubted whether the Articles were passed by it.
The event which seemed to crush the Reformation in the bud, in fact gave it life. Neither clergy nor people appear to have been very hearty in its cause, when it came commended to them by the tyranny of Henry, or even by the somewhat arbitrary authority of Edward and the Protector Somerset. But when its martyrs bled at the stake, and when the royal prerogative was arrayed against it, it then became doubly endeared to the people, as the cause of liberty as well as of religion.
Elizabeth, though not less a Tudor than her predecessors, was wiser, if not better than they. She at once disclaimed the title of Supreme Head of the Church in such a sense as might make it appear that her authority was spiritual, or trenching on the prerogative and rights of the clergy. She allowed the Convocation to be consulted, both on the Liturgy and the Articles.
And now both clergy and laity were more prepared to adopt the tenets and the worship of the Reformers. Men who did not wish to change their creed at the will of Henry, had learned to dread the despotism of Rome, as exhibited in the reign of Mary. There were yet many different sets of opinion in the country. A large number of clergy and laity were still for communion with Rome and for retaining the mass; others had imbibed a love of the doctrine and discipline of Geneva, and viewed a surplice with horror and aversion; others again leant to what were called Lutheran sentiments, and were viewed by one extreme as papists, by the other as heretics. Happily the leading divines in the Church, and especially Parker, the new archbishop, were imbued with moderate sentiments, and succeeded for a time in steering the Ark of the Church skilfully amid the fury of the contending elements. Their wise conduct and the gradual progress of opinions in the course of time appeased the vehemence of the Romanist party; though it is painful to add, that measures of a most cruel character were too often adopted by the friends of the Reformation, against the leading propagators of Romish doctrine: measures which stain the memory of Elizabeth’s reign almost as deeply, and not so excusably, as the fires of Smithfield do that of Mary’s. But, though Romanism was then decaying, the opposite extreme party was gradually advancing; and it advanced, till in the end it overthrew the altar and the throne. Its influence, however, was not great on the formularies of the Church. The Second Service Book of Edward VI. was restored in the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, with some alterations, principally the insertion of a few rubrics and passages from the First Service Book, and partly the omission of one or two sentences, which were thought needlessly offensive, or doubtful in their orthodoxy. The Prayer Book underwent subsequent revisions in the reigns of James I. and Charles II., which reduced it to its present form.
The alterations in the Articles have been fewer, and perhaps less important. Soon after his appointment to the primacy, which took place in 1559, Archbishop Parker set on foot various measures for the regulation and government of the Church, now again under the care of a reforming sovereign, and with a reforming archbishop at its head. It appears that one of Parker’s earliest labors was directed towards a recasting of the “Articles of Religion.” He expunged some parts of the original Articles, and added some others. In this work he was guided, like Cranmer, in a great degree by Lutheran formularies. As Cranmer had derived much from the Confession of Augsburg, so he took several clauses from the Confession of Wurtemberg. Both Houses of Convocation considered the draught of the Articles thus made by the archbishop, and by him committed to their inspection and revision. The Convocation, as appears from an original document in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, made several farther alterations, besides those which the archbishop had made. Especially, they erased the latter part of the original 3d Article, concerning the preaching to the spirits in prison, the whole of the 39th, 40th, and 42d, the archbishop having previously erased the 41st, thus reducing the whole number to 38. There was some little difference between the copy of the Articles thus submitted to and approved by the Convocation in 1562 and the copy afterwards published by the queen’s command, and with her royal approbation. The latter omitted the 29th Article, whose title was “Impii non manducant Corpus Christi in usu cœnæ,” and added the famous clause in the 20th Article, “Habet Ecclesia ritus statuendi jus et in fidei controversiis auctoritatem.” Both alterations are believed to be due to the queen herself, in the exercise of what she considered her undoubted right.
An English translation of these Articles was put forth soon after by the authority of Convocation, not apparently of the queen. This translation does not contain the famous clause on Church authority, which the queen or her council had inserted, nor yet the Article “Impii non manducant,” which the Convocation had authorized, but which the council had expunged.
In the year 1571 the Articles were again subscribed by both Houses of Convocation, and committed to the editorship of Bishop Jewell. They were then put forth in their present form, both in Latin and English; and received, not only the sanction of Convocation, but also of Parliament. The Latin Articles, as published at this period, omitted the famous clause concerning Church authority; the English retained it. Both contained the 29th Article, con cerning the wicked not eating the Body of Christ.
The Articles, which were now 39 in number, making, with the Confirmation, 40, were thus set forth with the authority of the Queen, of the Convocation, and of the Parliament. The clause concerning Church authority was still, however, in a measure doubtful; it being even to this day uncertain whether it received fully the sanction of Convocation. The bishops of both provinces soon after enacted canons, by which all members were bound to subscribe the Articles approved in the synod.
The mode in which the Articles, thus reduced to their present form, were drawn up and imposed upon the Church is a subject which may well admit of question and debate. The exercise of State authority, in the whole course of the Reformation, corresponds more with the notions of prerogative suited to those days, than with the feelings of modern times. But whatever may be said on this head, one fact is plain, namely, that the Articles thus drawn up, subscribed, and authorized, have ever since been signed and assented to by all the clergy of the Church, and by every graduate of both Universities; and have hence an authority far beyond that of any single Convocation or Parliament, namely, the unanimous and solemn assent of all the bishops and clergy of the Church, and of the two Universities for well-nigh three hundred years.
In the interpretation of them, our best guides must be, first, their own natural, literal, grammatical meaning; next to this, a knowledge of the controversies which had prevailed in the Church, and made such Articles necessary; then, the other authorized formularies of the Church; after them, the writings and known opinions of such men as Cranmer, Ridley, and Parker, who drew them up; then, the doctrines of the primitive Church, which they professed to follow; and, lastly, the general sentiments of the distinguished English divines, who have been content to subscribe the Articles, and have professed their agreement with them for now three hundred years. These are our best guides for their interpretation. Their authority is derivable from Scripture alone.
On the subject of subscription, of late so painfully agitated, very few words may be sufficient. To sign any document in a non-natural sense seems hardly consistent with Christian integrity or common manliness. But, on the other hand, a national Church should never be needlessly exclusive. It should, we can hardly doubt, be ready to embrace, if possible, all who truly believe in God, and in Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. Accordingly, our own Church requires of its lay members no confession of their faith, except that contained in the Apostles’ Creed.
In the following pages an attempt is made to interpret and explain the Articles of the Church, which bind the consciences of her clergy, according to their natural and genuine meaning; and to prove that meaning to be both Scriptural and Catholic. None can feel so satisfied, nor act so straightforwardly, as those who subscribe them in such a sense. But, if we consider, how much variety of sentiment may prevail amongst persons, who are, in the main, sound in the faith; we can never wish that a national Church, which ought to have all the marks of catholicity, should enforce too rigid and uniform an interpretation of its formularies and terms of union. The Church should be not only Holy and Apostolic, but as well, One and Catholic. Unity and universality are scarcely attainable, where a greater rigor of subscription is required, than such as shall insure an adherence and conformity to those great catholic truths, which the primitive Christians lived by, and died for.
- His first Protestant successor in the archiepiscopal see has thus described him: Ut theologiam a barbarie vindicaret, adjecit literas Græcas et Hebraicas; quaram sane post susceptum doctoratus gradum constat eum perstudiosum fuisse. Quibus perceptis antiquissimos tam Græcos quam Latinos patres evolvit: concilia omnia et antiquitatem ad ipsa Apostolorum tempora investigavit; theologiam totam, detracta illa quam sophistæ obduxerant vitiatta cute, ad vivum resecavit: quam tamen non doctrina magis quam moribus et vita expressit. Mira enim temperantia, mira animi lenitate atque placabilitate fuit; ut nulla injuria aut contumelia ad iram aut vindictam provocari possit; inimicissimosque, quorum vim ac potentiam etsi despexit ac leviter tulit, ab offensione tamen ad inimicitias deponendas atque gratiam ineundam sæpe humanitate duxit. Eam præterea constantiam, gravitatem ac moderationem præ se tulit, ut in omni varietate rebusque, sive secundis, sive adversis, nunquam turbari animum ex fronte vultuque colligeres. — Matt. Parker, De Antiq. Britann. Eclles. p. 495 Lond. 1729. ↑
- See Cardwell’s Synodalia, p. 34, note 2. ↑
- Ridley was converted from a belief in Transubstantiation to believe in the Spiritual Presence by reading Ratramn’s book, and he was the means of bringing over Cranmer, who in time brought Latimer to the same conviction. See Ridley’s Life of Ridley, p. 162. The date assigned to Ridley’s conviction is 1545. See also Soameg’s Hist. of Reformation, III. ch. II. p. 177. ↑
- Melancthon seems to have known Henry’s character too well to wish to become his counsellor. See Laurence, Bampton Lectures, p. 198, third edition, London, 1838; and Dr. Cardwell’s Preface to the two Liturgies of King Edward VI. Oxf. 1838, p. iv. note 6. ↑
- See Cranmer’s Works, by Jenkyns, IV. p. 278. ↑
- See Strype’s Cranmer, p. 193. Ridley’s Life of Ridley, p. 221. Collier’s Eccl. Hist. II. p. 252, &c. Downes’s Lives of the Compilers of the Liturgy, prefixed to Sparrow’s Rationale. Soames’s Hist. Ref. III. p. 352. The first Service Book was attributed by his contemporary Bale to Cranmer. On Cranmer’s approbation of it, see Jenkyns’s Cranmer, I. pp. liii. liv. ↑
- Soames seems satisifed that the parties actually engaged were Cranmer, Ridley, Goodrich, Holbeach, May, Taylor, Haynes, and Cox. “If,” he says, “it be true that Dr. Redmayn did not cordially approve the new Liturgy, that circumstance is to be regretted, for his age could boast of few men more erudite and honest.” — III. p. 256. This witness is true. ↑
- See Cardwell’s Preface to the two Liturgies of Edward VI., p. xiii, and the authorities there referred to. ↑
- Strype’s Cranmer, pp. 210, 266, 289. Ridley’s Life of Ridley, p. 333. Collier’s Eccl. Hist. II. 309. Soames, III. ch. VI. p. 592. “The prelates themselves appear to have considered the existing Liturgy as sufficiently unexceptionable, for in the act authorizing the new one it was declared that the former book contained nothing but what was agreeable to the word of God, and the primitive Church; and that such doubts as had been raised in the use and exercise thereof proceeded rather from the curiosity of the ministers and mistakers, than of any worthy cause.” —Soames, III. p. 595. ↑
- Wake’s State of the Church, &c., p. 599. quoted by Cardwell, Synodalia, I. p. 3. See also Jenkyns’s Cranmer, I. p. 357. It is asserted by Strype, in his Life of Cranmer, and repeated by Gloucester Ridley, that of these Articles “the archbishop was the penner, or at least the great director, with the assistance as is very probable of Bishop Ridley.” Ridley’s Life, p. 343.Mr. Soames says, “Of the Articles now framed Abp. Cranmer must be considered as the sole compiler. . . . It seems likely that he consulted his friend Ridley, and that he obtained from him many notes. It is however certain, that the Bishop of London was not actually concerned in preparing the Articles, as Cranmer, when examined at Oxford, took upon himself the whole responsibility of that work:” for which he quotes Foxe, 1704. Soames’s Hist. Ref. III. p. 648. ↑
- Bampton Lectures, passim, especially p. 230. ↑
- Ridley’s Life of Ridley, p. 162, referred to above. ↑
- In her Injunctions set forth in the year 1559, referred to and confirmed in the XXXVIIth Article of the Church. ↑
- See Soames’s Elizabethan Religious History, ch. v. ↑
- Laurence’s Bampton Lectures, p. 233. ↑
- See Cardwell’s Synodalia, p. 84. ↑
- Cardwell’s Synodalia, I. p. 127. ↑
- It will be remembered, that in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. the whole nation, and therefore, of course, the king and the Parliament, considered themselves as members of the national Church. Hence their interference in the reformation of the Church was a very different thing from the interference of a Parliament not consisting exclusively of churchmen. The question, as to how far the laity ought to be consulted in drawing up formularies or services, may be considered as open to discussion. ↑
- See the Baptismal Service and the Visitation of the Sick. [The Articles were not adopted in the United States of America till September 12th, 1801, although a body of twenty Articles appears in the PROPOSED BOOK. Bishop White states that the subject had been seriously considered and discussed by the bishops, both in 1789 and 1792. In 1789, Bishop Seabury, the only bishop present besides Bishop White, “doubted of the need of the Articles.” In 1792, Bishops White and Claggett were in favour of adopting them, while Bishoips Provoost and Madison were “directly against” them. Bishop Seabury still doubted, but was disposed to consider their adoption more favourably than in 1789. The latitudinarian objections of Bishops Provoost and Madison might well startle any man who found himself even though on very different grounds, occupying the same position with them.In the General Convention of 1799, the subject was taken up “at the pressing instance of the deputies from Connecticut,” and in consequence of instructions to them “from the Convention of their Dicoese.” The only action, however, was that of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. They appear to have appointed a committee who reported “a proposed body of Articles wholly new in form,” which were printed in the Journal. These articles were never voted on in the House in which they were reported, were never acted on by the bishops, and, indeed, were never seen by them till they appeared in print. The measure was, in every aspect of it, injudicious, and even absurd. But, after all, it worked towards a good result, by “showing the impossibility of agreement in a new form,” and exhibiting the inherent folly of the proposal. The feeling of opposition against any such attempt was a continually growing one; and at last — with some alterations, which will be specified in their proper places — the English articles were adopted, in 1801. See Bishop White’s Memoirs, &c., notes K and N. —J. W.] ↑