One thing that really did strike me about Ryle’s thoughts on the Articles of Religion is that he views them as a thoroughly Protestant document:
(4) Let us mark, in the fourth place, as we read the Articles, the thoroughly Protestant spirit which runs throughout them, and the boldness of their language about Romish error.
What says the Nineteenth Article? “The Church of Rome hath erred, not only in living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.”
What says the Twenty-second Article? “The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping and adoration, as well of images as of reliques, and also of invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”
What says the Twenty-fourth Article? It forbids the Romish custom of having public prayers, and ministering the Sacraments in Latin.
What says the Twenty-fifth Article? It declares that the five Romish sacraments of confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to be accounted sacraments of the Gospel.
What says the Twenty-eighth Article ? It declares that “transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.” It also declares that “the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.”
What says the Thirtieth Article ? “The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people.”
What saith the Thirty-first Article? “The sacrifices of masses, in which it was commonly said the priest did offer Christ for the quick and dead, to have remission of pain and guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceit.”
What says the Thirty-second Article ? “Bishops, priests, and deacons are not commanded by God’s law to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage.”
What says the Thirty-seventh Article? “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.”
Now what shall we say to all this? Nine times over the Thirty-nine Articles condemn, in plain and unmistakable language, the leading doctrines of the Church of Rome, and declare in favour of what must be called Protestant views. And yet men dare to tell us that we Evangelical clergymen have no right to denounce Popery, —that it is very wrong and very uncharitable to be so hot in favour of Protestantism,—that Romanism is a pretty good sort of thing,—and that by making such a piece of work about Popery, and Protestantism, and Ritualism, and semi-Popery, we are only troubling the country and doing more harm than good. Well! I am content to point to the Thirty-nine Articles. There is my apology! There is my defence! I will take up no other ground at present. I will not say, as I might do, that Popery is an unscriptural system, which every free nation ought to dread, and every Bible-reading Christian of any nation ought to oppose. I simply point to the Thirty-nine Articles. I ask any one to explain how any English clergyman can be acting consistently, if he does not oppose, denounce, expose, and resist Popery in every shape, either within the Church or without. Other Christians may do as they please, and countenance Popery if they like. But so long as the Articles stand unrepealed and unaltered, it is the bounden duty of every clergyman of the Church of England to oppose Popery.
As I said, Ryle definitely sees the Articles of Religion as being a distinctly Protestant document.
This post originally appeared at the Prydain website. It is republished here with Will Prydain’s permission.