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

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.


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