J. C. Ryle on The 39 Articles of Religion (Part 3)

Reading further in Knots Untied, this is what Ryle says about the sacraments and the Articles of Religion:

(3) Let us mark, in the next place, as we read the Articles, their wise, discreet, and well-balanced statements about the Sacraments. They declare plainly the Divine authority of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper They use high and reverend language about them both, as means of grace, ” by the which God doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but strengthen and confirm our faith in Him.”

But after saying all this, it is most instructive to observe how carefully the Articles repudiate the Romish doctrine of grace being imparted by the Sacraments “ex opere operato.” “The Sacraments,” says the Twenty-fifth Article, were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation.”

Now if there is any one thing that is laid to the charge of us Evangelical clergy, it is this,-that we deny sacramental grace. “Excellent, worthy, hard-working men,” we are sometimes called; “but unhappily they do not hold right Church views about the Sacraments.”—Men who talk in this manner are talking rashly, and saying what they cannot prove. Evangelical clergymen yield to none in willingness to give rightful honour to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All we say is, that grace is not tied to the Sacraments, and that a man may receive them, and be none the better for it. And what is all this but the doctrine of the Thirty-nine Articles?

As you can see, Ryle here says surprisingly little about the sacraments; I suppose he is simply willing to let the Articles of Religion speak for themselves.

This post originally appeared at the Prydain website. It is republished here with Will Prydain’s permission.


Will Prydain lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends an Anglican church nearby. By conviction and training he tends to look at things from an evangelical, Reformed Anglican perspective.


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