Archive for March, 2006

The Church in the Articles (III): Article XXI (a)

March 31, 2006

Continuing our series on the Thirty-nine Articles and the Rev. B. J. Kidd’s commentary . . .

With Article XXI, we return to subjects already raised, either explicitly or implicitly, in treating the Articles, particularly Article VI: the authority of Councils, their connection with Scripture, and what is meant by “church.” Here indeed we get to truly irreducible differences between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Several points must be kept in mind:

• As so often with the Articles, which are at times terse to the point of exasperation, the meaning of Article cannot be taken from text of the single Article alone, but from the sense of Articles as a whole, and indeed from Anglican formularies as a whole.

• The meaning of the Article here is, as often, clearer in the Latin text than in the English.

• Virtually every clause of Article XXI is negative; that is, the Article is much clearer on what does not make for an Ecumenical (or Oecumenical) council than on what does. The positive meaning of the Article must be teased out, based on its implications and its relationship with Anglican formularies as a whole.

• The Article can only be understood in connection with both the history it cites and its own immediate historical context, that is, the council that was meeting at Trent at the very time the Article was written.

Article XXI treats the authority of general councils; but before even reading past the title of the Article, we must be clear that general here does not necessarily mean Ecumenical (i.e., a council with binding doctrinal authority, or what Kidd refers to below as “really General.”), even though the term general is often used in our sources for either one, and thus a potential source of much confusion. Rather, general here refers to councils which purport to be Ecumenical when they gather ; whether or not they actually were, are, or achieve the status of, Ecumenical councils must yet be determined. In other words, in terms of Article XXI, all Ecumenical councils are general, but not all general councils become Ecumenical. And apart from the suggestion that they require a summoning by imperial authority (which, as Kidd puts it, is “a question of precedent rather than of inherent right”), the Article makes no explicit statement as to what goes to making a general council an Ecumenical one other than that its decrees be shown to be “taken out of Holy Scripture.” Instead, if we are to look for an answer to the question, “What makes a council Ecumenical?” we must once again turn to the Articles as a whole, and indeed to Anglican formularies as a whole; and we must first apply the negative definition, both stated and implied, of a council in Article XXI before we can discern what Anglican formularies as a whole suggest as a positive definition.

That Ecumenical councils have binding doctrinal authority for Anglicans is already implied in the first five Articles, which rehearse the doctrine of the first four (or six) Ecumenical councils, and their priority over the individual interpretation (“private judgment”) of the Bible is further implied by (a) their placement before Article VI on the authority of Scripture, (b) Article XX which insists that it is the Church that “hath authority . . . in controversies of faith,” and (c) the traditional requirement (from the same synod of 1571 that first required subscription to the Articles) that clergy preach “what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this selfsame doctrine.” (See “Reformed Catholicism” and the Thirty-Nine Articles.)

For American Anglicans in particular, Article XXI may seem strange, because it was in fact omitted from the Articles in American Prayer Books beginning in 1801. In its place was put the following: “The Twenty-first of the former Articles is omitted, because it is partly of a local and civil nature, and is provided for, as to its remaining parts, in other Articles.” As we will see, the meaning of its “remaining parts” is indeed filled out by other Articles. Presumably the objection to its “local and civil nature” was the reference in the first clause to “the commandment and will of princes,” something hardly likely to sound felicitous to a nation recently created out of rebellion to the British crown. However, this is to misread the Article, since the first clause does not, in fact, refer to British monarchs (as Kidd makes clear), nor does it refer to anything “local.” Rather, the reference is to the Roman (or Byzantine) imperial authority that lay behind virtually all of the early Ecumenical councils. The English text refers to “princes,” but this is an unfortunate translation of the Latin principes, singular princeps, one of the specific titles of all Roman emperors beginning with Augustus.

It may seem strange to the modern Christian that an Article of religion would insist on an imperial summons for an Ecumenical council—but in fact all the first seven councils accepted by both east and west to this day were indeed so called, because only in this manner could a council of the whole church be summoned, it being only within the power, and therefore the responsibility, of the ruler of the Christian empire (in Greek, oikoumene) to do so. Such a condition is no longer possible (and wasn’t really possible in in 1553 or 1571 either), since there were then, and are now, no more universally recognized emperors and are not likely to be any time soon; but the Articles’ authors were neither writing in an historical vacuum nor assigning universal authority over the whole Christian world to the British monarch.

Nevertheless, the purpose of the Article cannot be to suggest that an emperor’s summons alone was what made a council Ecumenical, because, as Kidd makes clear, there were plenty of general councils summoned by emperors that are now judged (and indeed were so judged soon after they met) as heretical rather than Ecumenical, such as the infamous council of Ariminum in 359; and insisting that it would be Ecumenical if the emperor that summoned it were himself orthodox is an exercise in circular reasoning. Rather, the clause concerning emperors must be taken as implying not a positive, that imperial authority alone makes for an Ecumenical council, but rather, by making a point from history—that all of the early Ecumenical councils were convoked by emperors—a negative, namely that papal authority alone does not. Why? Because the authors of the Article in 1553 were writing with an eye towards the papal synod meeting at that very time, the council of Trent. To quote The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church,

According to present RC canon law (CIC (1983), cans. 337-41, 749) the Pope alone has the right to convene an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it (in person or through deputies), and to approve its decrees. As the oecumenicity of a Council is now held to depend on the co-operation of the Pope, the Conciliar theory that there can be an appeal from the Pope to a Council is inadmissible.

This is the definition of an Ecumenical Council which Article XXI stands against. An imperial summons cannot be the sufficient cause of an Ecumenical Council, because general councils summoned by emperors can and have erred, as the Article states; and the historical context of Article XXI, written while the council of Trent was meeting, makes it clear that, if summons by an emperor is not a sufficient cause, neither is summons by a Pope. Nor, according to Article XIX, is it the Pope’s final approval that guarantees the true ecumenicity of a council (since “the Church of Rome hath erred . . . in matters of faith”). Thus, as to what makes a council’s doctrine binding, there are only two possibilities left, one which is stated explicitly in Article XXI—conformity to Scripture—and one which is implied, namely reception by the universal church. Why the latter? Because conformity to Scripture is itself a matter of faith concerning which, according to Article XX, “the Church hath authority.” Indeed, the very position of Article XXI, “Of the Authority of General Councils,” comes immediately after Article XX, “Of the Authority of the Church,” thus implying that it is not a particular Bishop, nor even a local or national church, but instead the entire church catholic that ultimately judges the ecumenicity of a council.

But enough by way of introduction. I have again broken up Kidd’s comments into two posts, and I will have more to write on councils, their number and reception in the second. For now, let Kidd speak . . .



De auctoritate Conciliorum Generalium. (§ 1) Generalia Concilia sine jussu et voluntate principum congregari non possunt. (§ 2) Et ubi convenerint, quia ex hominibus constant, qui non omnes Spiritu et verbo Dei reguntur, et errare possunt, et interdum errarunt, etiam in his quae ad normam pietatis pertinent. (§ 3) Ideoque quae ab illis constituuntnr, ut ad salutem necessaria, neque robur habent neque auctoritatem nisi ostendi possint e sacris literis esse desumpta.

Of the authority of General Councils. (§ 1) General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. (§ 2) And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. (§ 3) Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.

(i) Source.—Composed by the English Reformers, 1552-3.

(ii) Object.—Art. 21, standing as it does between one that treats ‘Of the Authority of the Church,’ and another that repudiates certain doctrines, as ‘Of Purgatory,’ etc., put forward on that authority, serves as the natural sequel to the one and the necessary introduction to the other. The authority of the Church, as the position of the Article implies, is normally expressed through General Councils; but, as its text goes on to affirm, the doctrines sanctioned by Councils claiming to be General cannot be accepted unless brought to the test of Holy Scripture. There is thus no intention to disparage the authority of such Councils as were really General: a point which is further established by the structure and the historical affinities of the Article. As with other Articles, its main statement is reserved for its final clause, which simply affirms that, in matters doctrinal, a council has no function beyond that of declaring the sense of Holy Scripture: and again, the Reformatio Legum, which proceeded from the same hands as the Articles under Edward VI, professes that we reverently accept the four great Ecumenical Councils, and defer to the decisions of many later synods.

There was, however, a special object in defining the degree of this deference at the time. A council, claiming to be Ecumenical, was sitting at Trent: and the English Divines, by pointing out that it was merely an assembly summoned by the Pope and confined to bishops of the Papal obedience, i.e. neither free nor representative, rid themselves by anticipation of any responsibility to it.

(iii) Explanation.—The Article makes three statements as to § 1 the right of convening, § 2 the fallibility of, and § 3 the authority of, General Councils.

§ 1 affirms that the right of convening General Councils belongs to the civil power. They may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. This was certainly the authority by which the six councils, generally accepted as Ecumenical, were assembled. The Council of Nicaea in 325 was summoned by the Emperor Constantine: and even the plan of such a gathering was probably his own. The Council of Constantinople in 381 was convened by Theodosius I to deal with the errors of Macedonius. The Council of Ephesus, which met in 431 to condemn the Nestorian heresy, was called together by his grandson Theodosius II. The Council of Chalcedon, assembled in 451 to put down Eutychianism, at the request of Pope Leo the Great addressed to the Emperor Marcian, who formally convened it. In 553 the second Council of Constantinople was summoned by Justinian, in the course of the Monophysite controversy: and in 680 the third Council of Constantinople met at the bidding of the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, and condemned Monothelitism.

Thus every Council, which can claim recognition as Ecumenical, was ‘gathered together’ at ‘the commandment and will of princes.’ Upon the decadence of the Roman power in the West, the Pope became the legatee of the imperial right of summoning councils: but, when he also came to be regarded as the successor of S. Peter and spiritual head of the whole Church, his right acquired additional sanction on that ground. At length, however, the decline of the Papacy led men to call in question its sovereign claims: and when, with the growth of the great nations of Western Europe into sovereign states, imperial authority was exercised by each monarch for himself, the right to have a voice in the summoning of Councils was at once claimed for the civil power as part of it. Probably no more than this was in the mind of the framers of Art. 21: for, in the previous reign, the Convocation of Canterbury had expressed itself to this effect: ‘We think that neither the bishop of Rome nor any one prince. . . may, by his own authority, . . . summon any general council, without the express consent . . . of the residue of Christian princes, and especially such as have within their own realms and seignories imperium merum, that is to say, of such as have the . . . supreme government . . over all their subjects.’ It is a question of precedent rather than of inherent right. In the sixteenth century the civil power, when it wished to secure itself against papal pretensions, reverted to ideals drawn from the practice of later Roman, or earlier medieval, emperors, chief among which was the imperial right to summon Councils. lmperial authority being now, as it were, in commission, it was argued that this prerogative was in commission too.

In the present age, were a General Council possible, the states of the civilised world would be more likely to act on the principle that the interests of religion were no concern of civil government. But as they have the power, and by precedent might claim the right, to intervene, it is still true, though somewhat of an academic truth, that General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes.

§ 2 asserts the fallibility of General Councils; but it ‘must be understood,’ as Bishop Burnet justly observed, ‘of councils that pass for such.’ They may err, and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Two propositions are made here, that councils, when assembled, are (1) liable to err, and (2) have actually erred.

(1) It might have been thought that God, having entrusted His Church with a revelation of supreme moment, would have taken care that a body summoned to represent the whole Church would be protected from possibility of error. But this is not so: and the mechanical theory of conciliar infallibility is of later growth. In the fourth century ‘the very continuance of the Arian controversy, subsequent to the Council of Nicaea, is enough to shew that no such ideas of the finality of a General Council as are now current were then held in the Church.’* The language of the orthodox leaders at that time points to the same conclusion. S. Athanasius, with all his veneration for ‘the great and holy synod,’ maintains that it is not to be preferred before the earlier, but local, Synod of Antioch in 269, nor is that to be preferred before the Council of Nicaea; since both alike did nothing new, but fell back upon the words of those who went before them.** So too Pope Julius, while contending that ‘a General Council ought not to be set aside by a few individuals,’ declares that it is within the power of one Council to revise the decisions of another, and refers to the Council of Nicaea as having laid down this principle.*** Accredited theologians then expressly declined to attribute to General Councils any inherent authority. In other words, they recognised that they may err.

(2) That they sometime have erred is mere matter of history. Not only were Councils, such as that of Ariminum in 359, which met with all the appearance of truly representative numbers, actually betrayed into making havoc of the faith, but others, lawfully called and widely attended, were repudiated by contemporaries and revised by subsequent synods. For instance, the Council which met at Ephesus in 449 to acquit Eutyches was immediately denounced by S. Leo as ‘no court of justice, but a gang of robbers,’**** and its decisions were reversed at the Council of Chalcedon, 451. The Article is thus amply justified in its statement that neither the formal convocation of a Council, nor its numbers, can ensure to it rectitude of proceedings or immunity from error. It should be noted that the statement, thus effectually grounded, was aimed, in all probability, at certain mediaeval synods, which, while commonly taken for General Councils, were representative only of Latin Christendom, and were responsible for the promulgation of mere errors, such as the dogma of Transubstantiation, which was first imposed by the Lateran Council of 1215, and was afterwards reaffirmed at Trent.

* Dr. Collins, Bishop of Gibraltar, on The Authority of General Councils.
** Cf. Ath., de Synodis, §§ 43, 46, 47.
*** Cf. Julius’ letter in Ath., Apol. c. Ar.., §§ 22, 25.
**** ‘Latrocinium,’ Leonis Ep. xcv. 2.

On a different note . . .

March 30, 2006

I thought this was really cool . . .

Click on the individual pics for specific info, then click on “slideshow” in the upper right for a nice view of the whole series.

The Church in the Articles (II): Article XX (b)

March 27, 2006

Continuing our series on the Thirty-nine Articles in general and Articles XIX to XXI in particular through the lens of Kidd’s commentary. The entry below completes his commentary on Article XX begun in the last post.

The alert reader will have noticed that Kidd is at pains not only to define the Church as visible by divine design and not merely spiritual convenience, but also to clarify just what the Articles mean when they refer to the “Church.” Is the particular reference to the local church or to the wider Church Catholic? At times the Articles clearly refer to the wider Church, at times to the local Church of England, and at still other times they are ambiguous; however, the implication of Article XX is that when it comes to “rites or ceremonies,” much latitude is to be given to the local church, while in matters of faith there are limitations not only on the local church but even on the Church Universal. Kidd wrote with an eye to the question of development of doctrine, and it is fair to ask whether his statement that “[t]here was indeed a development; but it was an explanatory, not an accretive, development: not an addition to the substance of the faith such as might proceed from a lawgiver, but an exposition of its contents such as is proper to a judge” is not in fact something a Roman Catholic could at least in theory accept, the differences between the two churches being thus a matter of doctrinal practice rather than doctrinal theory.

I will have more to say on ‘development’ later; for now, let Kidd speak for himself . . .


De Ecclesiae Auctoritate: Habet Ecclesia ritus statuendi jus et in fidei controversiis auctoritatem; quamvis Ecclesiae non licet quicquam instituere quod verbo Dei scripto adversetur, neque unum Scripturae locum sic exponere potest, ut alteri contradicat. Quare licet Ecclesia sit divinorum librorum testis et conservatrix; attamen, ut adversus eos nihil decernere, ita praeter illos nihil credendum de necessitate salutis debet obtrudere.

Of the Authority of the Church: The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.


(2) The judicial power of the Church. The Church. . . hath authority in controversies of faith.

(a) The nature of this authority is judicial. It is an authority to expound. In a civilised state, the legislature makes the laws, but it is the office of the judge to interpret them: and while the legislature may make new laws, the powers of the judicial bench are confined to the interpreting of laws already in existence. It is so with the Church. She possesses a less absolute authority in questions of doctrine than of discipline. For, while she ‘hath power to decree rites or ceremonies,’ she only ‘hath authority in controversies of faith’ to the extent of expounding what revelation means. For example, the Council of Nicaea had no hesitation in making a new regulation for the time of keeping Easter: but, in dealing with Arianism, it went no further than to declare the sense of Scripture as to our Lord’s Divinity. There was indeed a development; but it was an explanatory, not an accretive, development: not an addition to the substance of the faith such as might proceed from a lawgiver, but an exposition of its contents such as is proper to a judge.

(b) The Scriptural warrant for the assumption by the Church of such an ‘authority in controversies of faith’ is found in our Lord’s grant to the Apostles of the power to ‘bind’ and ‘loose,’ i.e. prohibit or permit by declaring a thing lawful or unlawful after the manner of a judge (Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18), to feed with discrimination (Luke xii. 42), and to teach (Matt. xxviii. 19); again, in Apostolic practice, as when at the Council of Jerusalem a doctrinal question involving the Catholicity of the Church was decided by ‘the Apostles and the elders with the whole Church’ (Acts xv. 22); and also in the language of S. Paul. He bids the elders of Ephesus ‘to feed the Church of God’ and guard it against false teachers (Acts xx. 28-30). He urges Timothy to ‘guard the deposit’ (1 Tim. vi. 20), and the elders under Titus to ‘hold to the faithful word which is according to the teaching’ (Tit. i. 9). Here he assumes that Christian teachers are responsible for judging between truth and falsehood; (cf. 2 Tim. ii. 15) and his language is only intelligible on the supposition that he regarded them as the official interpreters of the mind of the Church, which he describes as ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Tim. iii. 15).

But (c) like all judicial authority this right of the Church to discriminate and decide has its limitations. Thus it belongs to the Church as a whole. Only to the Apostles as a body is the presence of Christ (Matt. xxviii. 20) and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John xiv. 26; xvi. 13) promised: just as indefectibility is assured only to the whole Church (Matt. xvi. 18). It is true that local churches have taken upon themselves to define doctrine: but usually under some necessity, as of checking local error or of making provisional arrangements where circumstances rendered a final settlement by the whole Church unattainable. Thus Montanism was condemned by Asiatic Synods in the second century; Pelagianism, on its appearance in Africa; by the Synod of Carthage in 412; Anabaptism by the English Convocation of 1536. Where such local synods received more than local weight, it was in proportion to the extent of their acceptance in later times. Thus the Synod of Orange, which condemned Semi-Pelagianism in 529, though only a little Gallican Council, earned the respect and gratitude of the entire West; while the Council of Constantinople, which in 381 put Apollinarianism and Macedonianism under its ban, eventually came to be recognised as the second Ecumenical Council. Their decisions were for a long time of local or temporary authority.

Similarly the theologians of the English Reformation repeatedly affirmed that their doctrinal formularies were in no sense final but temporary expedients, awaiting the confirmation of a free Council representative of the whole Church. But even were ‘authority in controversies of faith’ exercised by the whole Church, it would still be under the further limitation that no decision would be binding if it either contravened the terms, or added to the substance, of Holy Scripture. The Church may not so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. . . so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation. But this has already been dealt with under Art. 6.

(3) What then is the relation of the Church to the Scriptures? The Church is described as a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ.

(a) As a witness, her chief function is to testify what books are to be regarded as Scripture, i.e. what is Scripture, as also to expound what Scripture means.

(b) As a keeper, she is, like the Jewish Church, ‘entrusted with the oracles of God’ (Rom. iii. 2). She is not the mistress but the steward of Scripture. Her duty is not to reveal truth, but to guard the truth as revealed (Jude 3). As against the Roman position, she is not the oracle of truth; nor are we to look for any such institution as would relieve us of the mental and moral discipline involved in the obligation to search for truth in the spiritual as in the scientific region.

On the other hand, as against the Protestant claim that every man is to discover the truth in Scripture for himself, the Article teaches that not the individual but the Church is the keeper of Holy Writ. The Scriptures themselves bear witness to their proper function. Both Gospels and Epistles were addressed to men already instructed in the faith (Luke i. 4 ; John xxi. 24; 2 Thess. ii. 15, iii. 6; 1 Cor. xi. 23, xv. 3; Gal. i. 6-8 ; Heb. v. 12; James i. 19; 2 Pet. i. 12, iii. 1; 1 John ii. 20, 21; Jude 3), and were never intended either to take the place of a teacher, or to serve as a mine out of which each man was to quarry the truth for himself.* The Church is the teacher, the Scriptures are the test, of truth. The Ethiopian eunuch was obliged to allow that he was but half equipped for arriving at the truth by his possession of the Scriptures: but when the representative of the ‘teaching Church’ expounded them in the person of Philip, he speedily attained it and was baptized (Acts viii. 27-38). Everywhere the Apostles follow the same method. They teach first; and prove, or bid men prove for themselves, by appeal to the Scriptures afterwards (Acts. ii. 14-36; xiii. 16-42; xvii. 2, 3, and 11).

*See Gore, Bampton Lectures, pp. 189 sqq.

The Church in the Articles (II): Article XX (a)

March 25, 2006

Continuing with our series from Kidd’s commentary on the Thirty-nine Articles . . .

In Article XIX, the church is defined as a visible institution, that is, an institution whose visibility was intended by her Creator, as Kidd was at pains to make clear. As a divine creation, therefore, the church has both certain powers and responsibilities as well as limitations. These are set out in Article XX, wherein it is made clear that the visible church, while having divine power, yet being a creature has limits to that power. There are thus two possible errors as regards the nature of the Church. One is the argument that the true church is invisible, and thus that the institutional church is a convenience that can be entirely shaped according to the perceived needs or desires of the ‘true’ Christians of the ‘invisible’ church. The second is the belief that the visible church, being divine, thus has in theory no limit on its power to alter what it chooses under the perceived inspiration of the “prophetic” Spirit and to label such innovations ‘developments’ (or, as the Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles Bennison once put it, “We wrote the Bible; we can rewrite it.) Neither of these views can be supported by the Articles.

Thus, in Articles XIX, XX, and XXI, the Church itself is part of the fixed deposit of faith, and thus enshrined in the creed as ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic.’ When read in conjunction with the other formularies of Anglicanism—the Prayer Book and the Ordinal—it is clear that both the episcopal structure and the teaching authority of the visible, institutional church are divine yet delineated.

Kidd’s commentary thus continues. I have broken his comments on Article XX in two. Here is the first.



De Ecclesiae Auctoritate: Habet Ecclesia ritus statuendi jus et in fidei controversiis auctoritatem; quamvis Ecclesiae non licet quicquam instituere quod verbo Dei scripto adversetur, neque unum Scripturae locum sic exponere potest, ut alteri contradicat. Quare licet Ecclesia sit divinorum librorum testis et conservatrix; attamen, ut adversus eos nihil decernere, ita praeter illos nihil credendum de necessitate salutis debet obtrudere.

Of the Authority of the Church: The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.

(i) Source.—Composed by the English Reformers, 1552-3, with the exception of the first clause, in thick type, which was added in 1563 from the Confession of Würtemberg. There has been some doubt as to the authority of this clause. (1) It is not found in (a) the Latin MS. of the Articles which received the signatures of the bishops on January 29, 1563; nor in (b) an English ‘minute’ of the Articles dated January 31, 1563, and now preserved among the Elizabethan State Papers; nor in (c) the English edition printed by Jugge and Cawood in 1563, which was the edition referred to by 13 Eliz. c. 12. But the value of this evidence rests on the assumption that these copies present us with the Articles as finally authorised. On the other hand, (2) the clause is found in (a) an early but undated Latin draft of the Articles preserved among the Elizabethan State Papers, where it was inserted, in the same hand, after the draft itself was made; and in (b) the earliest Latin edition, which was published by Wolf the Queen’s printer, and contains her imprimatur. It is possible that the clause was added by the Lower House of Convocation after the Bishops had signed their final draft: but it is more probable that it was added at the bidding of the Queen. In either case the clause was deficient in full synodical authority. This was made good in 1571: and when Archbishop Laud was charged, at his trial, with having added the clause himself, he was able to produce a transcript of the records of Convocation, attested by a notary public, containing the words in question.

(ii) Object.—To give a clear and balanced statement of the authority of the Church in view of attempts made by some to minimise, and by others to exaggerate, it. The Anabaptists denied it altogether, and were sufficiently met by the claim of the Church to ‘expound’ Scripture which underlay the Article as it stood in 1553. The additional clause prefixed in 1563 was wanted in view of the Puritan claim, then rising into prominence, that the Church had no power to enforce rites or ceremonies other than those for which explicit sanction might be found in Scripture. This was the familiar position of the Swiss reformers, who held that the Bible and the Bible only is the rule both of faith and practice: and the Article repudiates it, as Luther did. On the other hand, it equally repudiates the position to which the Roman Church had committed herself in 1546 (Conc. Trid. Sess. iv), that in doctrine the Church is not limited by what is contained in Scripture or may be proved thereby.

(iii) Explanation.-Under the general subject of the authority of the Church and its limitations, the Article deals with three points :—(1) The legislative power of the Church; (2) The judicial power of the Church; and (3) the relation of the Church to the Scriptures.

(1) The legislative power of the Church. The ambiguity of the word ‘Church’ makes it
a little uncertain whether the Article refers to the authority of the universal Church or of particular Churches. The statement that the Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies would be true of the Church as a whole; for the Council of Nicaea, in 325, fixed the time for keeping Easter. But in 1563, when the statement was first prefixed to the Article, the opposition was to the exercise of such power by the national Church. Probably, therefore, ‘Church’ is used in the more restricted sense; and the clause thus merely anticipates the fuller statement of the last clause of Art. 34, also added in 1563, to the effect that ‘every particular or national church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.’

As a matter of fact, such changes have usually been made on the authority of local Churches. The earliest liturgies are those belonging to particular Churches: and it is only the greater influence of some particular Church that has led to the growth of the later uniformity in rites and ceremonies. Thus the importance of the Church of Constantinople has led to the adoption of her liturgies of S. Basil and S. Chrysostom throughout the orthodox East; while the unique position of the Roman See in the West has resulted in the abandonment of the Mozarabic and Gallican rites in favour of the liturgy of the local Roman Church. In the sixteenth century the English Church reverted to the principle that, as a local Church, she hath power to decree rites or ceremonies for herself.

A rite is the ‘order’ or ‘form’ of service, as expressed in words, for any particular purpose, e.g. ‘The Order for Morning Prayer,’ or ‘The Form of solemnization of Matrimony.’ (In Canon 23 of 1604 ‘ritus’ is translated ‘order.’) Such rites the Church of England has not hesitated to modify whether by way of omission, re-arrangement, or addition. Thus, at the last revision of the Prayer Book in 1662, she omitted explicit prayer for the departed; retained that sequence in the parts of the Eucharistic rite which was first adopted in 1552; and prefixed to the Order of Confirmation an additional rite for the renewal of the baptismal vows. In dealing with ceremonies, which are the gestures or acts accompanying the rite (Canon 18 speaks of kneeling, standing, and bowing as ‘outward ceremonies and gestures’), she has exercised the same discretion; retaining in use kneeling at the Communion, the sign of the Cross at Baptism, and the ring at Marriage, though all were ceremonies once sharply contested; and abandoning others whether in the interests of simplification or of edification (cf. ‘Of Ceremonies’ in the Prayer Book).

But the Church claims this power only under limitations :—

(alpha) In principle, it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s word written: and again, it ought not to decree anything against the same. Thus, on the ground that ‘both the parts of the Lord’s sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to he ministered to all Christian men alike,’ Art. 30 condemns the denial of the Chalice to the laity, i.e. not as a doctrinal, but as a disciplinary, error. But short of this, where Scripture is silent about rites and ceremonies, it need not be consulted. To hold, as the Puritans held, that every rite and ceremony must have express warrant in Holy Writ, is to misconceive its purpose. Scripture is ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness’ (2 Tim. iii. 16; cf. Rom. xv. 4). It is the supreme authority in matters doctrinal and moral, but not in matters disciplinary. On the contrary, questions of practice were left, as the Scriptures themselves testify, to be settled by the authority of the Church. Thus the Jewish Church added the observance of the Feasts of Purim and of the Dedication (John x. 22) to the round of feasts divinely ordained (Deut. xvi. 1-17); and our Lord not only sanctioned its claim by His presence at the Feast of the Dedication, but recognised in the Jewish hierarchy an authority equal to that of Moses for such purposes (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3) and in its minor ceremonial precepts an obligation, secondary indeed, but still real (Matt. xxiii. 23).

When the Christian Church was set up, similar powers were exercised by its leaders. In the absence of express precept, it is difficult to attribute the substitution of Sunday for the Sabbath to any authority short of Apostolic; which must also be held responsible for the connection of the Eucharist with the earliest hours of ‘the first day of the week’ (Acts xx. 7). At any rate, this is the authority which regulated the conduct of worship. Thus, S. Paul orders that men should pray with head uncovered (1 Cor. xi. 4) and hands uplifted (1 Tim. ii. 8 ); that women should be veiled (1 Cor. xi. 5), and be in silence (1 Cor. xiv. 34; 1 Tim. ii. 12); that the prophets should exercise their gift in turn (1 Cor. xiv. 29 sqq.). Details, apparently of direction for celebrating the Eucharist, he reserves till he come (1 Cor. xi. 34). Meanwhile he lays down general principles for the conduct of worship. It is to have an eye first to edification (1 Cor. xiv. 26) and then to decency and order (1 Cor. xiv. 40), and where doubts arise, they are to be settled by appeal to the ‘custom’ delivered by Apostles (1 Cor. xi. 2) or prevalent among ‘the churches of God’ (xi. 16). It is abundantly clear then that powers of regulating rites and ceremonies are assigned, in Scripture, to the Church: and later history shows that they have been freely exercised by local churches.

(beta) In practice the English Church is further limited, in legislating upon rites and ceremonies for herself, by the existing conditions of Establishment. When in 1532 she permitted the Crown to rob her synods of the right of meeting, debating, and legislating for her needs at their own pleasure, she lost all freedom of self-government; and when she allowed herself, as in the successive Acts of Uniformity, to accept from Parliament coercive powers for the enforcement of the Prayer Book, she bartered away her liberty of reviewing it without the consent of the civil power, then but not now necessarily Christian. Hence deadlocks have arisen.

But in theory it is still to the Church and not to the civil authority, whether Crown or Parliament, that such power to decree rites or ceremonies belongs. As in former days, ‘When any cause of the law divine happened to come in question, or of spiritual learning, then it was declared, interpreted, and showed by that part of the . . . body politic, called the spiritualty, now being usually called the English Church, which . . . is . . . sufficient and meet of itself . . . to administer all such offices and duties as to their rooms spiritual doth appertain’ (24 Henry VIII. C. 12): so now, ‘If any difference arise about the external policy, concerning the Injunctions, Canons, and other Constitutions whatsoever thereto belonging, the Clergy in their Convocation is to order and settle them, having first obtained leave under Our Broad Seal so to do: and We approving their said Ordinances and Constitutions; providing that none be made contrary to the laws and customs of the land.’ (His Majesty’s Declaration, prefixed to the Articles)

The Church in the Articles (I): Article XIX (c)

March 18, 2006

Continuing from the previous two posts . . .

The reader will note that, along with his rejection of certain protestant notions of what constitutes the Church in the previous sections of his commentary on Article 19, Kidd also elaborates on Article’s accusation of Roman error “not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.” Kidd was an ‘anti-papalist’ Anglo-Catholic, and he duly grinds his axe here in the last paragraph. It is, in fact, open to question whether the document signed by Pope Liberius was an ‘Arianising’ creed (although whatever he signed—probably not the so-called ‘blasphemy of Sirmium’—did deliberately omit the homoousion, and Liberius did agree to the deposition of Athanasius under pressure). Pope Zosimus, although he foolishly reopened the case against Pelagius, ended up condemning Pelagianism. The argument over Pope Honorius is more serious; there is by now no question that he used language in the Monothelite controversy that was imprudent at best. His defenders will say that it was, however, no more than that; see s.v. in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., for a summary of the question.

ARTICLE XIX: Of the Church.

(§ 1) The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. (§ 2) As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.


(3) The visible Church is further described as a congregation of faithful men. Congregation, as we have seen, is here used not in its modern sense of a number of Christians assembled for worship in a particular place, but in its Scriptural sense of the whole people of God: and again, of the whole as an organised body, not a mere aggregation.

The Church is further limited as a body of faithful men, but nothing is implied as to the character of their faith. To make the possession of a lively faith the test of Church membership would be to make havoc of the visibility of the Church, and to read into the later part of its definition as here given what is contradictory of the first. ‘Faithful men,’ or ‘the faithful,’ are such as have received and profess the faith, whether good or bad. In Art. 26 it is stated that ‘in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good.’ If, for all its mixed character, ‘the visible Church’ is yet defined as ‘a congregation of faithful men,’ it is obvious that ‘faithful’ can mean no more than such as have received the faith in Baptism (Mark xvi. 16). The parables of the Wheat and the Tares (Matt. xiii. 24-30), the Drawn Net (47, 48), and the Marriage Feast (xxii. 2-14) are enough to show that of such was the Church in our Lord’s intention. It was to be a school for sinners, and not a museum of saints.

(4) The definition concludes with the notes of the Church.

(a) The first is that in it the pure Word of God is preached. That the Church was to be a dogmatic institution is clear from our Lord’s last commands to the Apostles. They were to ‘make disciples of all the nations,’ not only ‘baptizing them,’ but ‘teaching them to observe all things’ which He had commanded (Matt. xxviii. 19). So their earliest converts ‘continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ teaching’ as well as in their ‘fellowship’ (Acts ii. 42): while they themselves went out to ‘preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor. i. 17), and enjoined it as a last duty upon their successors to ‘preach the Word’ (2 Tim. iv. 2), and ‘hold the pattern of sound words’ (2 Tim. i. 13). Their writings everywhere imply that a definite body of teaching was committed to the Church (2 Thess. ii. 13-15; 1 Tim. vi. 20, 21; 2 Tim. i. 12-14), and the Church committed to the teaching (Rom. vi. 17): and this, as we have seen, is what is meant by the Word of God or the Gospel Message. For us, it is preserved in the Creed: and where the Church delivers the Creed, there the pure Word of God is preached, and the first note of the Church satisfied.

(b) A second note is that in it the sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. The Church is the home not only of truth but of grace. Our Lord accordingly instituted the two ‘Sacraments of the Gospel’ (cf. Article 25), both of which were to be used until His coming again (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; 1 Cor. xi. 26; cf. Luke xii. 42, 43).

Stedfastness, therefore, in sacraments and sacramental worship (Acts ii. 42; xx. 7; Heb. x. 19-25) was regarded as equally necessary with stedfastness in doctrine. For the due administration of the sacraments the requisites are a right Matter and a right Form ; the ‘matter’ of Baptism being water, and of the Eucharist bread and wine, the ‘form’ being in Baptism the use of the Threefold Name, and in the Eucharist the recitation of the words of consecration. In their requirement, however, of a duly ordained Minister the two sacraments are not on a par. Lay baptism is allowed, in case of need, because there are indications in Scripture that the act of baptizing was sometimes delegated to others by the Apostles, even when to all appearance no other ordained person was present beside themselves (Acts x. 48; cf. Acts xix. 5, 6, and 1 Cor. i. 14-17). But for a valid Eucharist, a duly ordained minister is also one of those things of necessity requisite to the same.

(c) A third note is only implicitly stated in the Article. The sacraments cannot be duly ministered without ‘the right use of ecclesiastical discipline.’ The Church received from our Lord ‘the authority of the keys’ to excommunicate notorious sinners, and to absolve them which are truly penitent’ 2 (Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18 ; John xx. 23); and the English Ordinal recognises this third note of the Church when it requires every priest ’so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded.’ (Homily for Whitsunday, part 2.)

§ 2, while it is not concerned to charge the Church of Rome with apostasy or heresy, denies her claim to infallibility by observing that, as a mere matter of history, as the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred. Those Eastern Churches all compromised their orthodoxy for a time during the Arian controversy. The Church of Rome similarly erred when in 358 Liberius signed an Arianising creed; when in 417 Zosimus* declared Pelagius a man ‘of entirely sound faith’ ; or again, in 634 when Honorius supported Monothelitism. The errors of the Church of Rome have thus embraced not only errors of living, as in the corrupt moral tone of Western Christendom at the end of the Middle Ages, for which the Court of Rome was mainly responsible; nor only manner of ceremonies such as the denial of the Chalice to the laity or the superstitious use of relics and images; they have extended to matters of faith. As a matter of fact the Roman Church has erred, like other churches. It follows that she is no more infallible than they.

* See his letter of 21 Sept. 417 ap. Aug. Opera x. coll. 100 B, 101 F (ed. Ben.). He ‘erred on the question of fact, whether certain persons did or did not hold the faith which he himself held; but still. . . his was “a very hasty judgment in a matter touching the very centre of the faith.” ‘—Bright, Anti-Pelagian Treatises of S. Augustine, p. xl.

The Church in the Articles (I): Article XIX (b)

March 16, 2006

Continued from the previous posting . . .

ARTICLE XIX : Of the Church.

(§ 1) The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. (§ 2) As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.


(2) The Church, so planned by Our Lord, was of necessity the visible Church: for it inherited the name, and was to step into the place, of the old theocracy.

(a) The foreign reformers, who had but an inadequate sense of the obligation of Church unity, endeavoured to justify their separation from the historic Church by setting up a doctrine of the Invisible Church, which consisted of true believers known only to God. As if with an eye merely to the Greek associations of Ecclesia, they spoke of a Church of the elect: and, decrying all organisation as mere externalism, they affected to regard membership in any or no ecclesiastical unity as indifferent by the side of membership in the Invisible Church. Saint Augustine had, indeed, opened up an ulterior distinction between the corpus Christi verum and the corpus Christi mixtum. (De Doctrina Christiana iii.32). He made an ‘interior’ Church of those only who were predestined to adhere permanently ‘perseveringly’ to their Lord. But, for all this, he never lost sight of the visible Church as a Divine institution, nor set up the ‘interior’ Church as a rival to the actual, of which it was but a subdivision. This antagonism was first set up by Wyclif (d. 1387), who defined the Church as ‘the congregation of all the predestinate,’ and contrasted it with the corrupt Church of his day. Wyclif’s definition was taken up by Hus (d. 1415), and through him the doctrine became common property with the continental reformers, though Luther was the first to embody it in the actual phrase of ‘the Invisible Church’ in his lectures on the Galatians (1516-19). Melanchthon, however, who will not hear of an invisible Church apart from the visible, had sufficient influence to keep the tenet out of the Lutheran formularies, whose definitions of the Church run on lines similar to those of Art. 19. But the Swiss were less cautious. They firmly believed that the Church is one: but by seeking its unity in the invisible Church rather than in the visible, they necessarily set up the one as a rival to the other. Their formularies now draw a distinction between the visible and the invisible Church, and speak of the true Church as invisible. In England, Swiss influences on this point made themselves felt as early as the reign of Henry VIII. : for both the Bishops’ Book of 1537 and the Thirteen Articles of 1538 assert that the Church has two senses in Scripture, and means either ‘the whole congregation of them that be christened and profess Christ’s Gospel’ or ‘the number of them only which belong . . . to everlasting life.’ It is only visible in the first sense: it is only one in the second. These distinctions are traceable to Zwingli, and are reproduced in the language of his English disciple Hooper. Hence their entire rejection, in the later and authorised English formularies, is no less significant than providential. Such currency as this doctrine of the Invisible Church still retains it owes to the exigencies of apology for the sects (including the new sect of unsectarianism) and not to sound learning. The notion that, for instance, ‘S. Paul regarded membership of the universal Ecclesia as invisible and exclusively spiritual. . . seems. . . incompatible with any reasonable interpretation of S. Paul’s words.’

(b) The evidence that our Lord intended to found a visible Church appears both in

(alpha) the plan of action which He adopted, and in

(beta) the language which He used to describe His work.

(alpha) His plan was not to scatter His teaching broadcast for men to make what they could of it, nor to set it down in a book; but to organise a society to which it should be entrusted. Thus, after He had offered Himself as Messiah to the rulers of the old theocracy at Jerusalem (John ii. 18 and iii. 1-15) and been rejected (John iv. 1), He retired to Galilee (Mark i. 14), and left Judea to itself (John iv. 3). In the Galilean ministry, He at once proceeded to gather round Him a band of disciples (Matt. iv. 18-22; Luke vi. 13), out of whom He chose twelve (Mark iii. 13; cf. John xv. 16) to be apostles (Luke vi. 13). Thus provided with the nucleus of His new society, His next step was to legislate for it (Matt. v.-vii.). He then trained the apostles for their future work by sending them out, with a ministerial charge (Matt. ix. 35-xi. 1), on temporary missions (Mark iii. 14, 15; cf. Luke viii. 1), by revealing His real claims (Matt. xvi. 16) and intentions (Matt. xvi. 18) to them alone (Matt. xvi. 20), by correcting their notions of the means by which His Kingdom would be attained (Matt. xvi. 21; xvii. 22; xx. 18), and of the sort of Kingdom which it would be (Matt. xviii. 1; xx. 21; cf. John xviii. 36). Finally, He instituted in the two sacraments of Baptism (Matt. xxviii. 19) and the Eucharist (Matt. xxvi. 26; 1 Cor. xi. 23) rites of admission into (John iii. 5), and maintenance in (John vi. 53), the new society, which were of an essentially visible and corporate (1 Cor. x. 17) character, and entrusted the administration of them to His apostles, who also received, under the warrant of successive commissions, power to legislate for (Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18), absolve (John xx. 22, 23), and feed (Luke xii. 42) the Church, together with a last injunction to gather ‘all the nations’ into its obedience (Matt. xxviii. 19). In this work, the Apostles were to regard themselves as enjoying a mission identical with that which the Lord Himself had received from the Father (John xvii. 18; xx. 21 a), as acting under the escort (John xx. 21 b; cf. Matt. xxviii. 20) of His perpetual presence, and the guidance of the Spirit (John xvi. 13); and that with a view to all their converts being ‘perfected into one,’ with a unity organic enough to bear a true likeness to the Unity of the Trinity, and visible enough to convince the world (John xvii. 20-23).

The Gospels, then, leave no doubt that our Lord’s purpose was to found a society at once organised and visible.

On turning to the Acts and the Epistles, we find that His work was immediately carried forward on these lines. There was at first but ‘a multitude of persons’ (Acts i. 15), though with the Apostles at their head (i. 13, 14). After the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit they became not merely a larger (Acts ii. 41), but an organised, body (ii. 42). There was ‘one body and one Spirit’ (Eph. iv. 4). Functional developments of organisation followed (Eph. iv. 11 sqq.) under Apostolic guidance. Thus the Apostles appointed (Acts vi. 3; xiv. 23) deacons (vi. 1-6) and elders (xi. 30; xiv. 23) as need arose; exercised discipline (v. 1-11; 1 Cor. v. 3-5); led the way in prayer and preaching (v. 42; vi. 4); presided over the administration of the sacraments (x. 48; xix. 5; 1 Cor. i. 17; Acts xx. 7); and took the chief part in legislating for the Church (xv. 22). Men were invited to have fellowship with the Church in order to have fellowship with God (1 John i. 3); if they became converts, they were admitted through the visible rite Baptism (Acts ii. 38), and regarded as having been ‘added to’ a body previously existing (41); so long as they remained in it ‘they continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship,’ in the Eucharist and the public prayers (ii. 42). It is quite in accordance with this development that the Epistles frequently describe the Church under such outward figures as a body (1 Cor. xii. 12 sqq.), a building (iii. 9), a temple (iii. 16), a household (Gal. vi. 10), a city (Eph. ii. 19), and a kingdom (Col. i. 13). These Epistles, moreover, are addressed to definite societies (1 Thess. i. 1; Rev. ii. 1), which include bad (1 Cor. v. 1) as well as good among their members, and have both a local habitation (1 Cor. i. 2) and officers of their own (Phil. i. 1).

Nothing, in short, can be clearer than that our Lord’s plan was to found a visible Church, and that Christianity everywhere presented itself under this aspect in the Apostolic age.

(beta) The society thus launched into the world was spoken of by its Founder as the Kingdom of God. The meaning of this phrase was well understood by the Jews, as is clear from the fact that our Lord was never at pains to explain it. He had only to announce it (Matt. iv. 17), and make it from the first (John iii. 5) the substance of His teaching (Matt. xiii. 11,19) and that of His disciples (Matt. x. 7; Luke x. 9; cf. Acts xx. 25; xxviii. 31) for it to be welcomed with enthusiasm (Luke xiv. 15). The exact phrase, indeed, does not occur in the Old Testament, nor in the apocalyptic literature; but the thing itself is frequently alluded to, specially in the Book of Daniel, a book which had much influence at the time of our Lord’s ministry. There it was promised that God would ‘set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed’ (Dan. ii. 44; vii. 14; cf. Matt. xvi. 18), under the rule of ‘one like unto a son of man’ (vii. 13), and in the hands of Israel, ‘the people of the saints of the Most High’ (27). Jewish Messianic expectation was building on these prophecies when our Lord appeared; and He not only adopted the tone of one declaring the accomplishment of that which His hearers hoped for (Matt. iv. 17), but employed imagery already associated with the glories of the Kingdom (Luke xiii. 28, 29; cf. Is. lix. 19 ; Mal. i. 11) to describe it. The Jews, however, expected that the Kingdom would take shape in the renewal of an empire like that of David (Mark xi. 10). So secular were their notions of it that our Lord had to transform, before He could accept, them. Thus He refused to be a king after their own heart (John vi. 15), and in the end it was their disappointment at this refusal which led to His death. ‘Pilate executed Him on the ground that His Kingdom was of this world: the Jews procured His execution precisely because it was not’ (cf. John xviii. 33-37; xix. 12-16).

So we find two sides to our Lord’s teaching about the Kingdom. As opposed to current expectation, He laid stress on its spiritual and moral character. The Jews thought it would be a kingdom of the material order (Matt. xx. 21). He taught that it would be for ‘the poor in spirit’ (Matt. v. 3), and described it as the highest moral good (Matt. vi. 33). They thought that it was still to come (Luke xix. 11; xxiii. 42). He said that the final stage was yet in the future (Matt. vi. 10; Luke xxii. 18); but that it was actually among them (Luke xvii. 21), suffering violence (Matt. xi. 12); for He Himself had brought it (Luke xi. 20). They believed that it was a perquisite of their nation, to which they had an hereditary right. He assured them that it was His Kingdom (Matt. xiii. 41); that it would be taken from them (Matt. xxi. 43); and that the conditions of entry into it were not Jewish birth, but a New Birth (John iii. 5) and conversion (Matt. xviii. 3). In the Sermon on the Mount He described the character of its citizens (Matt. v.-vii.), and He devoted the parables of the Kingdom to insist now on its mixed and outward aspect (Matt. xiii. 1-32, 47-50), now on its hidden life (33, 45, 46). At last He was justified in identifying the Kingdom, so purified in idea, with His Church (Matt. xvi. 18, 19). It was to be a visible society ‘in,’ but ‘not of, this world’ ; not a Kingdom of heaven in the sense that its seat was solely there, but in the sense that it was from heaven and ‘not from hence’ (John xviii. 36), and its character heavenly.

Attempts are current to obscure the outward aspect of the Kingdom of heaven, and to question its connection with the Church. For this purpose the genuineness of Matt. xvi. 18, 19 is questioned, though without reason: and stress is laid on the fact that, in the Epistles, the Kingdom of God appears only on its inward side (Rom. xiv. 17; but cf. Col. i.12) or as a thing to be attained in the future (1 Cor. xv. 50). It is then added that the Church is merely the community of believers looked at as an institution; while the Kingdom of heaven, which our Lord made the kernel of the Gospel, is Christianity in its essence and spirit. Undoubtedly, the Kingdom of God stands for the whole sphere of the Divine Sovereignty, and is used sometimes for God’s rule over the world (Ps. xxii. 28) or in men’s hearts and wills (Ps. cxlv. 11), sometimes of His ultimate triumph (Matt. xxv. 34). It is therefore a larger conception than that of the Church : but the Church is the present manifestation of the Kingdom, and is thus closely connected with it. This connection, moreover, is not confined to one passage in the Gospel (Matt. xvi. 18, 19); for when S. Peter asked a question about forgiveness arising out of the precept upon Church discipline (Matt. xviii. 15-17), he was immediately answered with a parable about the Kingdom of heaven (xviii. 2335).

On the other hand, the ideal and spiritual aspect of the Church appears in the Epistles (1 Cor. iii. 16, 17), and is exactly that which is elaborated in the Epistle to the Ephesians side by side with its corporate organisation. Certainly the Christian community is usually spoken of in the Gospels as the Kingdom of God and in the Epistles as the Church; but there is no reason to suppose that the Apostles lapsed from our Lord’s spiritual idea of the Kingdom and discarded it for an inferior and materialised one when they spoke of the Church instead. Both Church and Kingdom have a double aspect, each having its organised life and its inward principles. But there is a solid reason for the substitution of ‘Church’ for ‘Kingdom’ as the usual name for the Christian community in Apostolic times. Ecclesia, like Logos, was a word which had a meaning for the Greek as well as for the Jew. To the Gentile as to Pilate (John xviii. 33-8) the name Kingdom of God would convey little or nothing. The Apostles, having the mind of Christ, were not at pains to quote Him. They boldly conveyed His teaching by using the word which their hearers would best understand.

The Gospels then, in what they tell us alike of our Lord’s plan and of the title which He used to describe His Church, tell us that He meant it to be the visible Church.

The Church in the Articles (I): Article XIX (a)

March 15, 2006

As discussions continue on the nature of authority in the Anglican Communion, I continue to turn to the analysis of the Thirty-nine Articles by B. J. Kidd (see “Reformed Catholocism” and the Thirty-nine Articles). Articles XIX, XX and XXI are the heart of the Articles’ ecclesiology, and so I will give Kidd’s commentary on them over the next several posts, with occasional comments of my own, beginning with Article XIX, which deals with the church’s corporate, visible nature.

As I have written before, Kidd’s commentary is both a century old, and he treats the issues raised by the Articles in a summary manner (as any commentary on something like the Articles must). The virtues of his commentary are not subtlety and nuance, but brevity and clarity. His comments are sprinkled with copious scriptural citation in a manner that would strike some today as naïve and uncritical, but reading his comments first straight through, then together with a Bible while actually looking up his references as you go along, is an exercise I would recommend. He spends much time attacking both the hyper-protestant notion of an “invisible church” and the Roman claims of infallibility; he would probably have been astonished, had he lived long enough, to hear of some who call themselves Roman Catholics and yet, echoing liberal protestant readings of the New Testament, deny that Christ intended to found a church. The activities of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ doubtless would have baffled him.

I have applied a mild editorial touch, breaking up and reorganizing some of Kidd’s paragraphs to bring out the structure of his argument more clearly—otherwise it is too easy to get lost in such subdivisions as (1)(a)(alpha). I have transliterated the Greek or, in case of paragraph divisions, spelled out as (alpha) or (beta), and I have renumbered and reduced his footnotes. I will split his comments on Article XIX into three separate posts; remaining two will be posted over next few days. Then it’s on to Articles XX and XXI.



De Ecclesia. (§ 1) Ecclesia Christi visibilis est coetus fidelium, in quo verbum Dei purum praedicatur et sacramenta, quoad ea quae necessario exiguntur, juxta Christi institutum recte administrantur. (§ 2) Sicut erravit Ecclesia Hierosolymitana, Alexandrina, et Antiochena: ita et erravit Ecclesia Romana, non solum quoad agenda et caeremoniarum ritus, verum in his etiam quae credenda sunt.

Of the Church. (§ 1) The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. (§ 2) As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

(i) Source.-Composed by the English Reformers, 1552-3.

(ii) Object.-Probably polemical, and intended (a) to give such a definition of the visible Church as should exclude the claim of the Roman Church to be the only true Church, and, at the same time, shut out the various sects of Anabaptists: and (b) to deny the claim of the Roman Church to infallibility.

§ 1 offers a definition of the visible Church.

(1) The word Church is the customary English equivalent of the Greek Ekklesia, which was naturalised in the Latin Ecclesia, but not in our own tongue.

(a) As used in the New Testament, Ecclesia once appears in its classical sense of an assembly such as that to which, in a free Greek city, the transaction of public affairs was entrusted (Acts xix. 32, 39, 41). The Greek assemblies were called by a herald, and, consisting as they did of such only as enjoyed the rights of citizenship, were called out or elected from a larger population. Both these ideas are expressed in the word Ekklesia, and have their counterpart in the Christian’s calling (2 Tim. i. 9) and election (Rom. xi. 7 ; cf. 2 Pet. i. 10). There was thus a measure of fitness in the adoption of the heathen term Ecclesia to be the title of the Christian community.

(b) But, before its adoption, its associations had ceased to be exclusively, or even mainly, Greek; for it passed to the Christian Church not direct but through the Septuagint. Ecclesia, with the Alexandrian translators of the Old Testament, was the standing, though not the invariable, equivalent of Qahal, ‘the congregation’ of Israel: which the Revised Version translates now by ‘company’ (Gen. xxviii. 3; xxxv. 11; xlviii. 4), now by ‘assembly’ (Deut. xviii. 16; Josh. viii. 35; Judg. xx. 2; xxi. 5, 8 ), and now by ‘congregation’ (Ezra ii. 64; x. 1; Neh. viii. 2; Joel ii. 16): and twice in the New Testament the word occurs in this sense (Acts vii. 38; Heb. ii. 12), where it is translated in the former passage by ‘church’ and in the latter by ‘congregation.’ Everywhere it conveys the notion

(alpha) of numbers compacted into an organised body, i.e. of a congregation as distinct from a mere aggregation, and

(beta) of the congregation of Israel, or assembly of the whole people gathered together for religious purposes. It contrasts, in the original, with ‘Edhah, which, for the most part, is represented in the LXX by ’synagogue’; and is translated in the Revised Version now by ‘congregation’ (Ex.xii.3; Lev.iv.13;x.17; Num.i.16; Josh.ix. 27), and now by ‘company’ (Num. xvi. 5; Ps. cvi. 17). Both words, indeed, suggest ‘no mere agglomeration of men, but rather a unity carried out in the joint action of many members, each having his own responsibilities, the action of each and all being regulated by a supreme law or order’; but whereas ‘Edhah is used of the society whether assembled or not, and can even be used of animals (Judges xiv. 8; Ps. lxviii. 30), Qahal is always used of men, and denotes properly their actual meeting together.

Ecclesia was thus naturally appropriated by our Lord as the name of His new Society (Matt. xvi. 18): and that as conveying two ideas, that the Church was to be

(alpha) an organised body of men, and

(beta) the new ‘assembly of the people of God’ (Judg. xx. 2). Had Ecclesia been taken over direct from its Greek usage, it would have suggested only that the Church was called out of a larger body, and not that it was intended to take the place of the Jewish theocracy* as the new ‘people for God’s own possession’ (1 Pet. ii. 9; cf. Acts xx. 28; Eph. i. 14).

(c) Thus in the New Testament Ecclesia became the regular designation of the new society. Sometimes it designates the Church as a whole throughout the world (Matt. xvi. 18; 1 Cor. xii. 28; and especially in Eph. e.g. i. 22, etc.; cf. Acts xx. 28): sometimes the Church in a particular place (Acts viii. 1; 1 and 2 Thess. i. 1; 1 Cor. i. 2; 2 Cor. i. 1; Rom. xvi. 1; Rev. ii. 1): and, not infrequently, a particular congregation accustomed to meet in somebody’s house (1 Cor. xvi. 19; Rom. xvi. 5; Col. iv. 15; Philem. 2): and this variety of usage is faithfully reflected in the Articles (19, 20, 34). It would seem from the Gospels that the conception of the Church as a whole (Matt. xvi. 18) historically preceded that of the local church (Matt. xviii. 17). With S. Paul, ‘the idea of the local church, as a unit in itself, is more prominent in the earlier Epistles: that of individual Christians forming part of the great body of believers (the Church Catholic) is more prominent in the later.’**

But we cannot conclude from this that the use of Ecclesia for the local church necessarily came first in order of time: nor that the conception of the Church as a whole is not logically prior to that of the different churches, or of its individual members who are spoken of as ‘added to’ the Church (Acts ii. 47). In order of thought the plan of a building precedes its parts, though in order of time the parts precede the whole. Our Lord, as the architect of His Church, constituted it in effect when, in order to describe it, He adopted the term Ecclesia with all its Old Testament antecedents. S. Paul, ‘as a wise masterbuilder’ (1 Cor. iii. 10), would naturally be preoccupied with the parts until the entire building rose before him in its ideal proportions, as at length it does in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

* Cf. S. Paul’s contrast between ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1 Cor. x.18) and ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal. vi.16)

** Sanday and Headlam on Romans, p. 15