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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

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.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, July 24, 2009

Part VI: Chapter Five of Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith



". . . it is faith in God and in His promise which brings the blessing promised, whether it be salvation or any other gift. Consequently the Articles make it abundantly clear that if the sacraments are received without faith on the part of the recipient, they are as ineffective as is the Word heard but not believed."



Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith



A book by David Broughton Knox (Sydney: Anglican Church League, 1967). Revised 1976.



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.




Chapter Five



The Teaching of the Articles



IV: The Sacraments and the Church



The Thirty-Nine Articles aim to block off any loophole by which the idea that salvation results from our own actions -- an idea very congenial to our natural way of thinking -- might find lodgement again among the doctrines held by the Church of England. History shows that the sacraments are especially liable to be interpreted in this way. They are easily misinterpreted as religious works, by doing which the sinner obtains grace from God. Consequently the Articles are careful to define the sacraments as essentially God's Word to us. They speak and witness to us "of grace, and God's good will towards us". (Article 25). As in the written word of Scripture, so in the acted word of the sacraments, it is faith in God and in His promise which brings the blessing promised, whether it be salvation or any other gift. Consequently the Articles make it abundantly clear that if the sacraments are received without faith on the part of the recipient, they are as ineffective as is the Word heard but not believed. Thus Article 29 declares that "such as be void of a lively faith", although they partake of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, "yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ." This absolute negative -- nullo modo, (See Latin translation of Article 29) "in no way" -- effectively excludes the notion that Christ is in some sense associated with the bread and wine in a local manner so that those who receive the bread and wine, even without faith, in some sense receive Christ.



Christ dwells in the hearts of the worshippers by faith. He is present to their personalities by His Spirit, and this is the only manner of His presence in His Supper. This is unequivocally stated in Article 28. "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith."

Baptism is spoken of in the same way. It is a "visible sign" of "the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost" (Article 27).



The same Article likens baptism to an instrument of conveyance. Waterland commented: "A deed of conveyance, or any like instrument under hand and seal, is not a real estate, but it conveys one, and it in effect the estate itself, as the estate goes along with it, and as the right, title, and property (which are real acquirements) are as it were bound up in it and subsist in it" (Works, VII, p. 147). The deeds remain parchment and wax. They are not the property itself. But they are not merely parchment and wax, nor are they merely reminders of the property. The person who receives them receives the property; yet on one important condition: he must be the duly qualified person to receive them, otherwise the deeds convey nothing to him. So the sacraments convey eternal life by way of promise to those (and only those) who perceive and believe that promise.



The sacraments are God's sacraments, God's gracious words of promise to us. Through them God holds out to us everlasting life in Christ. This becomes ours by our response of faith. They are therefore God's instruments, not our works. As Article 25 puts it, "by the which he doth strengthen and confirm our Faith in him". This being the case, an unworthy minister does not hinder the salutary effects of the sacraments, for so long as the promise is clear through them, that promise may be received by faith (Article 26).



The sacraments embody the promise, as does the Word. But they are not self-explanatory, as the Word is, conveying its own meaning by its inherent intelligibility. They depend upon the Word for their actions to be symbolic and meaningful. They are therefore signs of God's grace only so long as they are understood in the context of the Word. But when accompanied by the explanatory Word (whether explicit or implicit) they become "effectual signs". The signs are effectual in two senses: not only effectual because the actions of which they consist, i.e., washing and eating, lend themselves to conveying helpfully the message of forgiveness and incorporation into Christ, but effectual because, like the Word, being clear messengers of God's grace, they are the means of bringing the promised blessings to those who believe and who express their faith in the promise by using its signs. Thus Article 25 describes the sacraments as "sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us".



Though the sacraments depend upon the Word for their character as signs, they go beyond the Word inasmuch as they are actions. They impress God's promises on our minds not merely by the sense of hearing but by sight and touch, and so they fortify faith. Moreover, they enable the believer to signify his response to the promises by his actions and not merely by his mental attitude or words. For example, he looks "to God for a clear conscience" (I Peter 3:21, R.S.V.) as he engages in the sacramental expression of this in baptism.



Because the sacraments are actions, acted promise and acted response, they may be spoken of as seals which confirm the promise in our consciousness. Although the New Testament does not refer to the sacraments in this way, it was a favourite thought amongst the Reformers and finds a place in the Articles (Article 27). It is the promise of adoption which the Articles speaks of as sealed by the sacrament of baptism. The thing promised, namely our adoption itself, is sealed to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. "Because you are sons God sent the Spirit of his son into your hearts." (Galatians 4:6).



The sacraments, being religious actions in which we engage, are easily thought of as primarily our actions, undertaken either for God's honour, or to obtain some merit or grace. In particular the Lord's supper is sometimes thought of as an offering we make to God. Since the offering made by Christ is the only offering that can be made on behalf of sinners which is acceptable to God, the Lord's supper has been interpreted as an offering associated in various ways with the offering of Christ on Calvary. Article 31 severely condemns this notion. Christ's offering was made once for all and is complete in every respect.



The sacraments express primarily not our action but God's; yet they are actions which incorporate our response to Him. That response is always and only faith, embodied by the outward action of receiving the sign of God's proffered blessing. Promise and response, both coalescing in symbolic action, make up the sacrament. Actions which obscure the promise or which symbolize the wrong response destroy the sign. Thus three current malpractices of the time -- non-communicating attendance at the Lord's supper, the reservation of the consecrated bread and wine, and their adoration -- are all condemned in the last paragraph of Article 25 on the ground that they are distortions of the sacraments from their purpose and proper use according to the mind of Christ.





Next Section







The Collect.

O GOD, who hast prepared for them that love thee such good things as pass man's understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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