J. C. Ryle on The 39 Articles of Religion (Part 5)

From Knots Untied, here is Ryle’s assessment of how the Articles see Holy Scripture:

(5) Let us mark, in the last place, as we read the Articles, the unvarying reverence with which they always speak of Holy Scripture. The inspiration of the Bible, no doubt, is never distinctly asserted. It is evidently taken for granted as a first principle, which need not be proved. But if constant references to Scripture, and constant appeals to the authority of Scripture, as God’s Word, are allowed to prove anything, in no document does the Bible receive more honour than in the Articles.

The Sixth Article declares that “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, and that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite and necessary to salvation.”

The Eighth Article says that “the three Creeds ought thoroughly to be believed and received, for they may be proved by most certain warranty of Holy Scripture.”

The Twentieth Article says, “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.”

The Twenty-first Article says that “things ordained by General Councils as necessary to salvation, have neither strength nor authority, unless it be declared that they be taken from Holy Scripture.”

The Twenty-second Article condemns certain Romish functions, “because they are grounded on no warranty of Scripture, but are rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

The Twenty-eighth Article condemns Transubstantiation,” because it cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.”

The Thirty-fourth Article says that “traditions and ceremonies of the Church may be changed, so long as nothing is ordained against God’s Word.”

Now I see in all this abundant proof that the Bible is the rule of faith in the Church of England, and that no doctrine is “Church doctrine” which cannot be reconciled with God’s Word. I see a complete answer to those who tell us that we make an idol of the Bible, and that we ought to go to the voice of the Church and to the Prayer-book for direction. I see that any sense placed on any part of the Prayer-book which is not reconcilable with Scripture, must be a mistake, and ought not to be received. I see, above all, that all who pour contempt on the Bible, as an uninspired, imperfect, defective Book, which ought not to be believed, if it contradicts “modern thought,” are taking up ground which is at variance with the Church’s own confession of faith. They may be clever, liberal, scientific, and confident; but they are contradicting the Articles, and they are not sound Churchmen.

I would certainly agree with Ryle that the Articles of Religion do hold Scripture in high regard. That is one reason I myself do support the Thirty-Nine Articles: they have a high view of Scripture and I do think that upholding the Articles as a doctrinal standard can assist the Church in preserving doctrinal integrity.

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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