J.C. Ryle on the 39 Articles of Religion (Part 9) “Final Thoughts”

Here are Ryle’s final thoughts on the Articles of Religion, in which he asks that we never be ashamed of the Articles:

(4) Finally, let me advise every Churchman who values his soul never to be ashamed of the great leading doctrines which are so nobly set forth in the Articles.

Never mind if people call you extreme, party-spirited, going too far, puritanical, ultra-Methodist, and the like. Ask them if they have ever read the first nineteen Articles of their own Church. Tell them, so long as you are a Churchman, you will never be ashamed of holding Church doctrine, and that you know what Church doctrine is, if they do not.

Remember, above all, that nothing but clear, distinct views of doctrine, such views as you will find in the Articles, will ever give you peace while you live, and comfort when you die. “Earnestness” is a fine, vague, high-sounding term, and is very beautiful to look at and talk about, when we are well, and happy, and prosperous.

But when the stern realities of life break in upon us, and we are in trouble,when the valley of death looms in sight, and the cold river must be crossed,-in seasons like those, we want something better than mere “earnestness” to support our souls. Oh, no! it is cold comfort then, as our feet touch the chill waters, to be told, “Never mind! Be in earnest! Take comfort ! Only be in earnest!”—It will never, never do! We want then to know if God is our God, if Christ is our Christ, if we have the Spirit within us, if our sins are pardoned, if our souls are justified, if our hearts are changed, if our faith is genuine and real. “Earnestness” will not be enough then. It will prove a mere fine weather religion. Nothing, in short, will do in that solemn hour but clear, distinct doctrine, embraced by our in ward man, and made our own. “Earnestness” then proves nothing but a dream. Doctrines such as those set forth in the Articles are the only doctrines which are life, and health, and strength, and peace. Let us never be ashamed of laying hold of them, maintaining them, and making them our own. Those doctrines are the religion of the Bible and of the Church of England!

I think Ryle is right that the Articles of Religion give us a theological and doctrinal framework with which to interpret and apply Scripture to all of life. And this is absolutely nothing of which one should be ashamed.

This post originally appeared at the Prydain website. It has been republished here along with the rest of the series 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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