« PreviousContinue »
isolated and alone. Still, the visible, material ministry of the Church is organic to the redeemed Personality. Now, as two thousand years ago, that is the method of the Incarnation. It is not magical, but it is supernatural. It is the supernaturalism of Personality, which, in the last analysis of metaphysic, is not beneath nature, but above nature, controlling, reforming, creating.
“ Quoniam in ipso condita sunt universa in cælis et in terra visibilia et invisibilia.” (Col. 1:16.)
The Historical Meaning of the Thirty
By Rev. Lucius WATERMAN, D.D. ERTAIN “ Articles of Religion" are still bound up with our Prayer Books, though they are not a part of the
Book of Common Prayer. It may be conjectured (doubtfully) that some persons occasionally read one of them. (They are studied, of course, in Theological Seminaries.) But the chief use made of them in these days is what we may call“ abusive." That is to say, they are taken by members of some party in the Church to throw at members of some other party. To expound the genuine, historical meaning of all these writings would need a good-sized book, and such a volume has been well provided by Rev. Dr. B. J. Kidd in the Oxford Church Text Book Series.* Our humbler object is to show by reference to a few representative Articles that the intention of the framers of this document was to be very inclusive, very considerate of the views and feelings of thoughtful students on both sides of a great controversy, which had become a bitter quarrel, and in fact to manage to include in one national Church as large a part of the English nation as the cleverest statemanship could contrive to hold together. It must be added that statesmen are compelled to use often the methods of politicians. It is one of the most familiar tricks of politicians to use words in such a way that they will certainly be taken by opposite parties in a great contention in quite opposite senses. So it comes to pass that in regard to some of these Articles of ours the question which of two rival interpretations is the real “ historical interpretation” is fairly susceptible of this strange answer—“ Both of them.” The framers of these statements deliberately set themselves to produce a form which should be satisfactory to two groups of people of sharply opposed views. They knew well that they could not possibly satisfy both parties at all fully. They did hope to give each party an impression that on the whole the proposed statement on any subject was at least tolerable, and in the final issue rather more favorable to it than to its opponents. This is not a noble
• The 39 Articles : Their History and Meaning. New York.
E. S. Gorbam,
form of theological composition. It cannot be described as chivalrously frank. But it is the sort of thing which statesmen do in fact produce. We propose to show the large inclusive purpose, and to illustrate the somewhat subtle methods, of the Elizabethan statesmen by reference to Article XVII, to an omitted Article, and to Article XXVIII.
I. William Pitt once slurred the Church of England as having “a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Armenian clergy.” When he said “ Calvinistic creed,” he was referring to the Articles, which are not a “ creed,” and he was encouraging what a great teacher * has called “ the senseless notion, that wherever the word “ predestination” occurs, there Calvinism must be found.” Before we look to see whether there is Calvinism in Article XVII, we must see what Calvinism really is.
Those of us who believe so fully in free will that we recognize the freedom of Almighty God—that is, that He is not tied up in a network of natural laws, so but that He can exercise power over such laws, even as we do—must believe that God can rule the world and make history. We must believe also that our own freedom is a gift of God, which God Himself cannot take away. We have to think of God as foreseeing all the free choices of men, and ordering the world's events so as to surround these free acts, and combine with them, in such wise as to bring the world to the end that God has planned for it at last. All human history is in a sense a divine order. All acts are in a sense predestined acts. But we believe that the acts which men choose to do fall into their place in God's order because God sees before how men will choose. Far other than this was the idea of Calvin. He held man's apparent freedom to but an empty show. God ordained, in His view, not only that men should be, but what they should do, and everything that they should do. God created some men to be good and some to be bad; some to be saved, and others to be eternally condemned. God did not decree because He foresaw; He foresaw because He decreed. What are known as “ The Five Points of Calvinism” are these: (1) Predestination, in the sense of an arbitrary assignment of some
The late Bishop Williams, of Connecticut, in the first of two papers on Article XVII., which appeared in the American Church Review in January and April, 1873. These papers are extraordinarily worth reading.
persons to goodness and unhappiness, out of God's mere choice, and including Reprobation, that is, the condemnation of some persons to everlasting death, quite irrespective of any choice of theirs, but by a perfectly arbitrary decree of God; (2) Particu lar Redemption, that is, the doctrine that Christ died not to save all men from sin, if they would allow themselves to be so saved, but only the “ Elect”; (3) Total Depravity, being the awful teaching that after the Fall human nature was left a ruin, utterly corrupt, and having nothing that was good and godlike any more at all;* (4) Irresistible Grace, the strange notion that when God gives men gifts of grace at all, grace must produce the fine fruit of goodness, whether they will or no; and by consequence of this last, (5) Final Perseverance, the conclusion that if a man has once received grace, and got a start in the way of goodness, he must, of very necessity, go on in it forever.
The subject of divine predestination may be said to be a forgotten subject. Very few persons, even among students of theology, now think of the word “ predestination ” without attaching to it the Calvinistic significance. It was far otherwise three centuries and a half ago. Then“ predestination" was a familiar word in every theology, and it had two clearly distinguishable meanings—a Catholic meaning and a Calvinist meaning. It is used in the Catholic sense in Article XVII, and in that Article not one of the Five Points finds any place. The language of the Article sounds foreign to our modern ears. Those who study carefully will find Calvanism evaded at every turn. Here is the subtle phrasing.
Some theologians, very carelessly, write this third “ Point as “ Original Sin." But Original Sin " 18 a Catholic doctrine.' St. Paul teaches (Rom. 5: 12, 17) that “ through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned," and that " by the trespass of the one death reigned through the
To avoid misunderstanding St. Paul we must observe that St. Paul wrote in Greek, and his Greek phrase which werender “all sinned" does not mean, "all did a wicked act," but rather "all missed the mark." He means that the sins of first offenders broke the unity between men and God, wbich is rightly called “life," and set up a disharmony which may well be called “death." He means that the first buman sins created disease of sin, and that all the children of our race have been born in the world inheritors of that diseased condition. Calvinism went much further, though Calvin himself did not press this point as his followers did. The later Calvinism taught that the very sins of Adam were in their phrase, “ imputed" to Adam's descendants. This caricature of the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin" is what was intended, doubtless, in the lines of the old New England Primer:
“In Adam's fall
We sinned all." and was justly satirized in the suggestion of a caustic wit that it might be well to go on
" In Abel's murder
We sinned furder." But there is a Catholic doctrine of " Original Sin," and it is not to be set down as one of tbe " Points of Calvinism.
ARTICLE XVIL. OF PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor. Wherefore, they which he endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season; they through Grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
This is not all of the Article, but it is the whole of its statement of doctrine. Let us submit it to a careful examination. It will be remembered that the difference between Catholic and Calvinist was that while both recognized a divine ordering of the world (whereby some persons would, as members of God's Church on earth, go through a faithful course and reach a happy end) the Catholic held that such an ordering rested on God's foreknowledge that those persons would by their own free will make a good use of grace, and the Calvinist held that all the orderings of God were absolute and arbitrary, and that human beings had no more freedom than puppets pulled by strings. It would have been easy to write a statement about the order of God which would have made quite clear which kind of order the writer believed in. This statement is profoundly silent on that point. Perhaps there is a hint in the phrase, “ by his counsel secret to us,” that the will of God is not arbitrary. That was Richard Hooker's understanding of the phrase.
They err, therefore,” he says, * " who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides his will . inasmuch as he worketh all things not only according to his own will, but the counsel of his will and whatsoever is done with counsel or wise resolution hath of necessity some reason why it should be done.” But further, there is no least word about any arbitrary reprobation of any persons, and that was a cornerstone of Calvin's system. Calvin says that those who refuse belief in Reprobation do it“ ignorantly and boyishly, since election itself cannot stand unless it is opposed to reprobation.”+ Entire omission of so essential a point of Calvin's system is tantamount to a denial.
Ecclesiastical Polity, 1., il., 5.