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standing of divine matters. This happening soon after the reformation was first set on foot, those, whose corruptions were struck at by it, and who both hated and persecuted it on that account, did not fail to lay hold of and to improve the advantage which these sects gave them. They said, that the sectaries had only spoke out what the rest thought; and at last they held to this, that all sects were the natural consequences of the reformation, and of shaking off the doctrine of the infallibility of the church. To stop those calumnies, the Protestants of Germany prepared that confession of their faith which they offered to the diet at Augsburg, * and which carries its name. And, after their example, all the other churches, which separated from the Roman communion, published the confessions of their faith, both to declare their doctrine for the instruction of their own members, and for covering them from the slanders of their adversaries.
Another reason that the first reformers had for their descending into so many particulars, and for all these negatives that are in their confessions, was this : they had smarted long under the tyranny of popery, and so they had reason to secure themselves from it, and from all those who were leavened with it. They here in England had seen how many had complied with every alteration both in king Henry and king Edward's reign, who not only declared themselves to have been all the while papists, but became bloody persecutors in queen Mary's reign : therefore it was necessary to keep all such out of their body, that they might not secretly undermine and betray it. Now since the church of Rome owns all that is positive in our doctrine, there could be no discrimination made, but by condemning the most important of those additions, that they have brought into the Christian religion, in express words: and though in matters of fact, or in theories of nature, it is not safe to affirm a negative, because it is seldom possible to prove it; yet the fundamental article, upon which the whole reformation and this our church depends, is this, that the whole doctrines of the Christian religion are contained in the Scripture, and that therefore we are to admit no article as a part of it till it is proved from scripture. This being laid down, and well made out, it is not at all unreasonable to affirm a negative upon an examination of all those places of scripture that are brought for any doctrine, and that seem to favour it, if they are found not at all to support it, but to bear a different, and sometimes a contrary sense, to that which is offered to be proved by them. So there is no weight in this cavil, which looks plausible to such as cannot distinguish common matters from points of faith. This may serve in general to justify the largeness and the particularities of this confession of our faith. There were some steps made to it in king Henry's time, in a large book that was then published under the title of The Necessary Erudition, that was a treatise set forth to instruct the nation. Many of the errors of popery were laid open and condemned in it: but none were obliged to assent to it, or to subscribe it. After that, the worship was reformed, as being that which pressed most; and in that a foundation was laid for the articles that came quickly after it. How or by whom they were prepared, we do not certainly know; by the remains of that time it appears, that, in the alterations that were made, there was great precaution used, such as matters of that nature required, questions were framed relating to them, these were given about to many bishops and divines, who gave in their several answers that were collated and examined very maturely: all sides had a free and fair hearing before conclusions were made.
* This celebrated confession was dictated by Luther, and drawn up by Melancthon. It contains twenty-eight chapters. Twenty-one of which set forth the opinions of the Protestants; the other seven the errors and superstitions of the church of Rome. Dr. Mosheim gives the following most interesting account of the presentation of this confession, and of its effect upon the diet :
Charles V. arrived at Augsburg the 15th of June, 1530, and on the twentieth day of the same month the diet was opened. As it was unanimously agreed, that the affairs of religion should be brought upon the carpet before the deliberations relating to the intended war with the Turks, the Protestant members of this great assembly received from the emperor a formal permission to present to the diet, on the 25th of June, an account of their religious principles and tenets. In consequence of this Christian Bayer, chancellor of Saxony, read, in the German language, in presence of the emperor and the assembled princes, the famous confession which has been since distinguished by the denomination of the Confession of Augsburg. The princes heard it with the deepest attention and recollection of mind; it confirmed some in the principles they had embraced, surprised others, and many, who, before this time, had little or no idea of the religious sentiments of Luther, were now not only convinced of their innocence, but were, moreover, delighted with their purity and simplicity. The copies of this confession, which after being read, were delivered to the emperor, were signed and subscribed by John, elector of Saxony, by four princes of the empire, George, marquis of Brandenburg, Ernest, duke of Lunenburg, Philip, landgrave of Hesse, Wolfgang, prince of Anhalt, and by the imperial cities of Nuremberg and Reutlingen, who all thereby solemnly declared their assent to the doctrines contained in it.'- See the confession of Augsburg, in APPENDIX A.-[Ed.]
In the fermentation, that was working over the whole nation at that time, it was not possible that a thing of that nature could have passed by the methods that are more necessary in regular times : and therefore they could not be offered at first to synods or convocations. The corruptions complained of were so beneficial to the whole body of the clergy, that it is justly to be wondered at that so great a number was prevailed with to concur in reforming them : but, without a miracle, they could not have been agreed to by the major part. They were prepared, as is most probable, by Cranmer and Ridley, and published by the regal authority. Not as if our kings had pretended to an authority to judge in points of faith, or to decide controversies: but as every private man must choose for himself, and believe according to the convictions of his reason and conscience (which is to be examined and proved in its proper place),
so every prince or legislative power must give the public sanction and authority according to his own persuasion; this makes indeed such a sanction to become a law, but does not alter the nature of things, nor oblige the consciences of the subjects, unless they come under the same persuasions. Such laws have indeed the operation of all other laws; but the doctrines authorized by them have no more truth than they had before without any such publication. Thus the part that our princes had in the reformation was only this, that they, being satisfied with the grounds on which it went, received it themselves, and enacted it for their people. And this is so plain and just a consequence of that liberty which every man has of believing and acting according to his own convictions, that when this is well made out, there can be no colour to question the other. It was also remarkable, that the law, which stood first in Justinian's code, was an edict of Theodosius's; who, finding the Roman empire under great distractions by the diversity of opinions in matter of religion, did appoint that doctrine to be held which was received by Damasus bishop of Rome, and Peter bishop of Alexandria; such an edict as that, being put in so conspicuous a part of the law, was a full and soon observed precedent for our princes to act according to it.
The next thing to be examined is the use of the Articles, and the importance of the subscriptions of the clergy to them. Some have thought that they are only Articles of Union and Peace; that they are a standard of doctrine not to be contradicted, or disputed; that the sons of the church are only bound to acquiesce silently to them; and that the subscription binds only to a general compromise upon those Articles, that so there may be no disputing nor wrangling about them. By this means they reckon, that, though a man should differ in his opinion from that which appears to be the clear sense of any of the Articles; yet he may with a good conscience subscribe them, if the Article appears to him to be of such a nature, that, though he thinks it wrong, yet it seems not to be of that consequence, but that it may be borne with, and not contradicted. I shall not now examine whether it were more fit for leaving men to the due freedom of their thoughts, that the subscription did run no higher, it being in many cases a great hardship to exclude some very deserving persons from the service of the church, by requiring a subscription to so many particulars, concerning some of which they are not fully satisfied. I am only now to consider what is the importance of the subscriptions now required among us, and not what might be reasonably wished that it should be.
As to the laity, and the whole body of the people, certainly to them these are only the articles of church-communion; so that every person who does not think that there is some proposition in them that is erroneous to so high a degree, that he cannot hold communion with such as hold it, may and is obliged to continue in our communion : for certainly there may be many opinions held in matters of religion, which a man may believe to be false, and yet may esteem them to be of so little importance to the chief design of religion, that he may well hold communion with those whom he thinks to be so mistaken. Here a necessary distinction is to be remembered between articles of faith and articles of doctrine : the one are held necessary to salvation, the other are only believed to be true; that is, to be revealed in the scriptures, which is a sufficient ground for esteeming them true. Articles of faith are doctrines that are so necessary to salvation, that without believing them there is not a federal right to the covenant of grace : these are not many, and in the establishment of any doctrine for such, it is necessary both to prove it from scripture, and to prove its being necessary to salvation, as a mean settled by the covenant of grace in order to it. We ought not indeed to hold communion with such as make doctrines, that we believe not to be true, to pass for articles of faith ; though we may hold communion with such as do think them true, without stamping so high an authority upon them. To give one instance of this in an undeniable particular. In the days of the apostles there were Judaizers of two sorts: some thought the Jewish nation was still obliged to observe the Mosaical law; but others went farther, and thought that such an observation was indispensably necessary to salvation. Both these opinions were wrong, but the one was tolerable, and the other was intolerable, because it pretended to make that, a necessary condition of salvation, which God had not commanded. The
apostles complied with the Judaizers of the first sort, as 1 Cor. ix. they became all things to all men, that so they might gain 19_23. som
some of every sort of men: yet they declared openly against the other, and said, that if men were circumcised, or were willing to come under such a yoke, Christ profited them nothing; and upon that supposition he had died in vain. From this plain precedent we see what a difference we ought to make between errors in doctrinal matters, and the imposing them as articles of faith. We may live in communion with those who hold errors of the one sort, but must not with those of the other. This also shews the tyranny of that church, which has imposed the belief of every one of her doctrines on the consciences of her votaries, under the highest pains of anathemas, and as articles of faith. But whatever those at Trent did, this church very carefully avoided the laying that weight upon even those doctrines which she receives as true; and therefore though she drew up a large form of doctrine, yet to all her lay-sons this is only a standard of what she teaches, and they are no more to them
than articles of church-communion. The citations that are brought from those two great primates, Laud and Bramhall, go no farther than this : they do not seem to relate to the clergy that subscribe them, but to the laity and body of the people. The people, who do only join in communion with us, may well continue to do so, though they may not be fully satisfied with every proposition in them : unless they should think that they struck against any of the articles, or foundations of faith; and, as they truly observe, there is a great difference to be observed in this particular between the imperious spirit of the church of Rome, and the modest freedom which ours allows.
But I come, in the next place, to consider what the clergy is bound to by their subscriptions. The meaning of every subscription is to be taken from the design of the imposer, and from the words of the subscription itself. The title of the Articles bears, that they were agreed upon in convocation, for the avoiding of diversities of Opinions, and for the stablishing consent touching true Religion. Where it is evident, that a consent in opinion is designed. If we in the next place consider the declaration that the church has made in the canons, we shall find, that though by the 5th canon, which relates to the whole body of the people, such are only declared to be excommunicated ipso facto, who shall affirm any of the Articles to be erroneous, or such as he may not with a good conscience subscribe to; yet the 36th canon is express for the clergy, requiring them to subscribe willingly, and ex animo; and acknowledge all and every article to be agreeable to the word of God: upon which canon it is that the form of the subscription runs in these words, which seem expressly to declare a man's own opinion, and not a bare consent to an article of peace, or an engagement to silence and submission. The statute of the 13th of queen Elizabeth, cap. 12, which gives the legal authority to our requiring subscriptions, in order to a man's being capable of a benefice, requires that every clergyman should read the Articles in the church, with a declaration of his unfeigned assent to them. These things make it appear very plain, that the subscriptions of the clergy must be considered as a declaration of their own opinion, and not as a bare obligation to silence. There arose in king James the First's reign great and warm disputes concerning the decrees of God, and those other points that were settled in Holland by the synod of Dort against the Remonstrants; divines of both sides among us appealed to the Articles, and pretended they were favourable to them: for though the first appearance of them seems to favour the doctrine of absolute decrees, and the irresistibility of grace; yet there are many expressions that have another face, and so those of the other persuasion pleaded for themselves from these. Upon this a royal declaration was set forth, in which,