Tracts for the Times
REMARKS ON CERTAIN PASSAGES IN THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES
One remark may be made in conclusion. It may be objected that the tenor of the above explanations is anti-Protestant, whereas it is notorious that he Articles were drawn up by Protestants, and intended for the establishment of Protestantism; accordingly, that it is an evasion of their meaning to give them any other than a Protestant drift, possible as it may be to do so grammatically, or in each separate part.
But the answer is simple:
- In the first place, it is a duty which we owe both to the Catholic Church and to our own, to take our reformed confessions in the most Catholic sense they will admit; we have no duties toward their framers. [Nor do we receive the Articles from their original framers, but from several successive convocations after their time; in the last instance, from that of 1662.]
- In giving the Articles a Catholic interpretation, we bring them in to harmony with the Book of Common Prayers, an object of the most serious moment in those who have given their assent to both formularies.
- Whatever be the authority of the [Declaration] prefixed to the Articles, so far as it has any weight at all, it sanctions the mode of interpreting them above given. For its enjoining the "literal and grammatical sense," relieves us from the necessity of making the known opinions of their framers, a comment upon their text; and its forbidding any person to "affix any new sense to any Article," was promulgated at a time when the leading men of our Church were especially noted for those Catholic views which have been here advocated.
- It may be remarked, moreover, that such an interpretation is in accordance with the well-known general leading of Melanchthon, from whose writings our Articles are principally drawn, and whose Catholic tendencies gained for him that same reproach of popery, which has ever been so freely bestowed upon members of our own reformed Church.
"Melanchthon was of opinion, says Mosheim, "that, for the sake of peace and concord, many thing might be given up and tolerated in the Church of Rome, which Luther considered could by no means be endured. . . . In the class of matters indifferent, this great man and his associates placed many things which had appeared of the highest importance to Luther, and could not of consequence be considered as indifferent by his true disciples. For he regarded as such, the doctrine of justification by faith alone; the necessity of good works to eternal salvation; the number of the sacraments; the jurisdiction claimed by the Pope and the Bishops; extreme unction; the observation of certain religious festivals, and several superstitious rites and ceremonies."Cent. XVI. § 3, part 2. 27, 28.
[6. The variety of doctrinal views contained in the Homilies, as above shown, views which cannot be brought under Protestantism itself, in its widest comprehension of opinions, is an additional proof, considering the connexion of the Articles with the Homilies, that the Articles are not framed on the principle of excluding those who prefer the theology of the early ages to that of the Reformation; or rather since both Homilies are Articles appeal to the Fathers and Catholic antiquity, let it be considered whether, in interpreting them by these, we are not going to the very authority to which they profess to submit themselves.]
An illustration of this occurs in the history of the 28th Article. In the beginning of Elizabeths reign a paragraph formed part of it, much like that which is now appended to the Communion Service, but in which the Real Presence was denied in words. It was adopted by the clergy at the first convocation, but not published. Burnet observes on it thus:
"When these Articles were first prepared by the convocation in Queen Elizabeths reign, this paragraph was made a part of them; for the original subscription by both houses of convocation, yet extant, shows this. But the design of the government was at that time much turned to the drawing over the body of the nation to the Reformation, in whom the old leaven had gone deep; and no part of it deeper than the belief of the corporeal presence of CHRIST in the Sacrament; therefore it was thought not expedient to offend them by so particular a definition in this matter; in which the very word Real Presence was rejected. It might, perhaps, be also suggested, that here a definition was made that went too much upon the principles of natural philosophy; which how true soever, they might not be the proper subject of an article of religion. Therefore it was thought fit to suppress this paragraph; though it was a part of the Article that was subscribed, yet it was not published, but the paragraph that follows, The Body of CHRIST, &c., was put in its stead, and was received and published by the next convocation; which upon the matter was a full explanation of the way of CHRISTS presence in this Sacrament; that He is by which He is received. This seemed to be more theological; and it does indeed amount to the same thing. But howsoever we see what was the sense of the first convocation in Queen Elizabeths reign, it differed in nothing from that in King Edwards time; and therefore though this paragraph is now no part of our Articles, yet we are certain that the clergy at that time did not at all doubt of the truth of it; we are sure it was their opinion; since they subscribed it, though they did not think fit to publish it at first; and though it was afterwards changes for another, that was the same in sense."Burnet on Article XXVIII., p. 416.
What lately has taken place in the political world will afford an illustration in point. A French minister, desirous of war, nevertheless, as a matter of policy, draws up his state papers in such moderate language, that his successor, who is for peace, can act up to them, without compromising his own principles. The world, observing this, has considered it a circumstance for congratulation; as if the former minister, who acted a double part, had been caught in his own snare. It is neither decorous, nor necessary, nor altogether fair, to urge the parallel rigidly; but it will explain what it is here meant to convey. The Protestant Confession was drawn up with the purpose of including Catholics; and Catholics now will not be excluded. What was an economy in the reformers, now a protection to us. What would have been a perplexity to us then, is a perplexity to Protestants now. We could not then have found fault with their words; they cannot now repudiate our meaning.
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul,
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