Collect of the Day
O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith
The author: Canon David Broughton Knox, B.A., A. L. C. D., B.D., M.Th., D. Phil. (Oxford), was Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. Ordained in 1941 he served in an English parish and as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming a tutor at Moore College 1947-53. On leave in England he was tutor and lecturer in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford 1951-53 and Assistant Curate in the parish of St. Aldale's, Oxford. He became Vice Principal of Moore College in 1954 and Principal in 1959. He was elected Canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral in 1960. His other books include "The Doctrine of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII" (London: James Clarke, 1961).
David Broughton Knox also founded George Whitefield College in South Africa in 1989.
The Teaching of the Articles
III: The Doctrine of Salvation
The Reformers' great concern was that the Church should know and preach the Gospel of the grace of God. The basis of the Gospel of grace is the doctrine that God has provided a full and complete ground of salvation in the death of Christ. This is affirmed in Article 31 and referred to in Articles 2, 15, and 28. Salvation becomes ours by way of God's promise (based on Christ's death) and our believing the promise. Article 7 refers to the promise; Article 11 refers to our response of faith. This latter Article states that God judges us worthy of ourselves but only on account of Christ's worthiness. Faith is the means by which we participate in this salvation -- faith in God known in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We make no contribution from ourselves to our salvation. From Beginning to end it is of God's grace. Our Justification, or our being accepted as worthy by God, does not wait on any 'work' of ours which we may accomplish in the time-process in which our life is set. It is simultaneous with our apprehension, in the inmost recess of our personality, of the grace of God in Christ and it precedes any action of our will from which 'works' flow. We are saved by God solely on the basis of Christ's 'works' and the means whereby God saves us is our believing His truth.
The knowledge that our salvation is of God and is not suspended, even in part, on the outcome of our own vacillating efforts is a doctrine full of great strength, nerving us to battle and endure for our Saviour even in the face of defeat. Article 11 'Of the Justification of Man', which succinctly states this key doctrine, deserves to be quoted in full. 'We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.' (The homily referred to is the third of the first book of the Homilies of the Church of England.)
The doctrine of salvation of a sinner entirely by the grace of God greatly enhances our understanding of the love of God, and redounds to God's glory; but it is not a doctrine which would have occurred to anyone if it were not taught in Scripture. All mankind is conscious from time to time of guilt, and it seems natural that the way, if any, to expiate guilt is by some action of our own, perhaps a sacrifice or prayer, perhaps more ascetic and painful action, perhaps reformation of life. But the Reformers saw that the Bible taught that none of these things was the ground, or shared in the ground, of our forgiveness and salvation. However, the biblical doctrine is so strange to our natural ideas, and the activity of our wills as the ground (or contributing vitally to the ground) of salvation is so congenial to human thought, that whenever the Bible is not carefully read and expounded, or whenever it is no longer regarded as authoritative, the Gospel of God's grace is lost (or at least obscured) and no longer has the liberating and exhilarating effect on our life that it should have.
Many of the Articles are devoted to cutting off the ways by which history showed the Gospel of God's grace could be eroded or diluted by the doctrine of salvation by our works. Articles 9 and 10 teach that human nature, since the advent of sin, no longer has the power to enable it to act in a way that is pleasing to God. Article 9 speaks of 'original or birth-sin', that bias of our nature which draws us to act against the will of God known to us in our conscience. God did not create mankind thus and it meets with God's disapproval. This bias towards in remains in us even after our adoption as God's children, so that the apostle Paul can speak of 'the sin which dwells in me' (Romans 7:17 ESV [R.S.V.]) and of the 'flesh' whose desires run counter to those of the Holy Spirit, so that we are not able to do what we would (Galatians 5:17). Such a nature is no satisfactory basis for winning our way to heaven by our own works. We are always in need of forgiveness.
Article 10 speaks of the weakness of our will, which of itself can never choose God. As fallen sinners our nature is self-centred, not God centred; though a moment's reflection shows that this is wrong in a creature -- in a being, that is, who is not self-sufficient but is contingent and dependent, as we know ourselves to be. However, we have not the strength of will to abandon this self-centredness of ourselves so as to become God-centred. Our wills simply serve our nature, which is now self-centred. They cannot change our basic nature. Such being the case, it is impossible that our will should be the means of our salvation.
Articles 9 and 10 make clear that in ourselves there remains no way by which we can begin to return to God. This idea is highly uncongenial to our natural way of thinking. It can only be maintained so long as it is recognized as clearly taught in Scripture, and so long as Scripture in its plain meaning remains authoritative for the Christian.
Article 11 states that the way of salvation is by the merit of Christ, though faith. Article 12 is a postscript to Article 11, explaining the place of good works and Christian conduct. Our salvation is not based on our conduct, but Christian conduct is the consequence of our salvation. Good works are an outward indication of our new relationship to God, 'By them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.' However, our conduct is never as perfect as it should be; it can therefore never merit our salvation, for taken by itself it comes short, and so deserves God's condemnation.
If a Christian's life on earth is never free from the taint of the old nature, so that his acceptance with God always depends on his relationship with Christ and never on his works viewed in themselves (so much is stated in Article 12), it follows a fortiori that a man's life before he comes under the leading of the Holy Spirit as a Christian cannot win God's favour. This is stated in Article 13. The teaching of this Article has met with hostile comment in some modern Christian circles. This is through a misapprehension of the meaning of the language of the Article, which must be construed in close connection with Article 12. The latter states that the Christian's imperfect works are only (fully) pleasing to God because they are seen in the context of a Christian's standing in Christ. For in themselves these imperfections call out 'the severity of God's judgement', since God is holy. The imperfect works (and even the best are such) of those as yet outside of Christ do not share in the benefit of forgiveness that is through Christ. It is therefore inevitable that when brought to the bar of God's judgement such works must be described as 'not pleasant to God', for inevitably 'they have the nature of sin'. The Article is concerned to show that sinners cannot in any way merit God's salvation; this remains wholly a gift of God's grace and mercy. Merited salvation is not mercy but reward.
Article 14 makes clear that no Christian can exceed God's requirements, so as to put himself in God's debt. It is directed against the Roman Catholic doctrine of works of supererogation. At first sight it may seem extraordinary that any Christian should think that he can be better than God requires. yet the concept is inherent in salvation by merit. For this implies a standard to be attained, and if this is to be fixed within the capacity of the ordinary Christian to attain, plainly the more saintly can exceed it. The overplus of merit is then available for assignment, by papal indulgence, to penitents whose own merits come short of the standard. The Article, basing itself on Scripture, denies the possibility of exceeding God's requirements and says that the notion cannot be entertained without arrogancy and impiety. [Editor's note: See Luke 17:7-10 ESV].
Article 15 insists that no one but Christ attains to God's requirements. 'All the rest . . . offend in many things.'
Article 16 teaches that no sinner should despair, for there is always a place of forgiveness and restoration for those who repent.
1662 Book of Common Prayer
Collect of the Day
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity.
GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Posted by Charlie J. Ray at 6:46 PM