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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, August 12, 2011

A Brief Commentary on the Catechism of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

A Brief Commentary on the Catechism of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

by Charlie J. Ray

Prefatory Remarks:

It should be noted that the customs and traditions of the sixteenth century were different from those of the twenty-first century. Even the English Reformation did not completely change the customs and traditions of the catholic church up to that time, provided that the traditions were not forbidden in Scripture. This would differ from the more Puritan regulative principle of worship. The English Reformers were more in line with the magisterial view of Reform, namely the principle of normative worship. That is, whatever is not forbidden in Scripture is allowable. The Puritans, on the other hand, advocated the idea that whatever is not commanded specifically in Scripture is forbidden. This principle is apparent even in the beginning of the catechism where the use of godparents is evident. The Puritans most likely rejected the use of godfathers and godmothers in naming the child and in catechizing the child, although I could be wrong.

Significant use of Scripture, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the 39 Articles of Religion, and the Homilies will be taken during this study of the catechism. Since the Anglican Formularies constitute the “official” doctrinal standards for the Anglican Church since the Reformation, the Formularies are necessary for any adequate understanding of the catechism itself. The Formularies are The 39 Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal. (See 1662 BCP Catechism). According to the 39 Articles of Religion and the Catechism there are only two sacraments, namely baptism and the Lord's supper.  (See Articles XIX-XXXI). The reason being that these two sacraments are related to the Gospel while the others are in error due to states of life or traditions of men.

A CATECHISM
THAT IS TO SAY
AN INSTRUCTION TO BE LEARNED
OF EVERY PERSON BEFORE HE BE
BROUGHT TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE BISHOP


Question. What is your name?

Answer. N. or M.


Commentary: I am assuming that “N.” is name and “M.” indicates “moniker” or something similar. Basically it is the same as “name”.


Question. Who gave you this Name?

Answer. My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.


Commentary: Exactly what is a Godfather or Godmother anyway? That is a difficult question and the resources available for an accurate answer are few. Why would a Godfather or Godmother name the infant rather than the parents of the child giving the name as is true in modern customs?

First of all, it goes without saying that the catechism assumes that most everyone who is confirmed has been baptized as an infant. Adult baptism would have been rare since the prevailing practice in the Church of England from earliest times would have been paedobaptism and not credobaptism. Even Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, said that infant baptism is the best sign of the sovereignty of God in salvation since He chose the elect before the foundation of the world and before they did good or bad or chose to follow Christ for themselves.

Since I have limited resources at hand I will be relying primarily on an article in The Churchman by Donald W. Robinson, the former Archbishop of the Sydney Diocese. (See Anglican Church League: Donald Robinson). Regarding the continued use of godparents Robinson says that this is due to the spiritual nurture and guidance of the congregation of believers assembled for the baptismal service. The godparents presumably testify to the qualifications of the natural parents to bring the child up in the Christian faith, particularly the evangelical and reformed faith restored during the English Reformation. Robinson denies that this practice is papist in any sense of the term:

Some of the problems we encounter in regard to baptismal discipline might disappear if the role of the believing congregation were to be become a reality. Our Reformers considered that a praying people were indispensable to the due administration of baptism. Even in private baptism it is required that those who are present with the minister should “call upon God, and say the Lord’s Prayer” before proceeding to baptize. In 1549 and 1552, one of the questions to be asked afterwards, in order to certify that the child had been lawfully and sufficiently baptized, was this: “Whether they called upon God for his grace and succour in that necessity”. By contrast, the new draft services do not require any prayer at all to be offered before the administration of private baptism. The congregation again appears in the regular services in the person of the sponsors. These days, sponsors tend to be uncles or friends who come from far, but our Prayer Book probably assumed that they would be members of the congregation. One reason why they are not the parents of the child is probably because they are, in effect, vouching to the congregation for the Christian integrity of the parents who have sought baptism for their child. And if the profession made by the sponsors on behalf of the child is to be credible to the congregation, they must presumably be themselves known to the congregation. The historical question of godparents is admittedly confused, but we should not too easily assume that the canonical objection to parents standing as godparents for their own children is merely a hangover from the medieval idea of spiritual affinity. Dr. Sherwin Bailey points out that our Church repudiate [sic] that idea at the Reformation, though it retained the prohibition against parents being sponsors,9 which is still the law of this Church.10 The only question I ask in connection with this, is whether it does not reflect a valuable view of the place of the Church in baptism. Our services have the feature, unique among liturgies, I think, of the receiving of the baptized person into the congregation immediately after being baptized. This, too, has disappeared from the draft services. No one can be unaware of the pastoral problems associated with baptism in the modern situation. But few of them are likely to find a satisfactory solution until baptism becomes a truly integral part of the prayerful concern and responsibility of the local congregation, and in this matter, our liturgy at least gives us an ideal. (Donald W. Robinson, “The Doctrine of Baptism,” The Churchman, Vol. 076, Issue 2, 1962, page 5).

For Robinson the primary purpose of infant baptism is the covenantal promises given to the church by our Lord. (See Acts 2:38-39). This is completely in line with the Calvinist tradition as it is expressed in both Presbyterianism and Reformed Anglicanism. The Sydney Anglicans have sometimes unjustly been charged with Puritanism because they are moderately to conservatively Calvinist or Reformed. This is unique among Anglicans in the world since the majority of Anglicans worldwide are sympathetic to the Anglo-Catholic or the High Church Arminian view rather than the true Calvinist roots of the English Reformation. While the Sydney Anglicans are a mixed blessing to Anglicanism, they are far more biblical than the liberal or conservative Anglo-Catholics and their High Church Arminian sympathizers. In general Sydney tends toward either a five point Calvinism or the Amyraldian view of D. Broughton Knox.

Moreover, Robinson does not answer the question as to why the godparents named the child but it would stand to reason that this is in consultation with the parents. There is an example of this in Scripture when Zacharius and Elizabeth named their son John prior to his circumcision on the eighth day after his birth:


Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, "No; he shall be called John." 61 And they said to her, "None of your relatives is called by this name." 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. (Luke 1:57-64 ESV)

Robinson further denies the Romish doctrine of spiritual affinity of the godparents and instead relates this concept to the accountability of the parents to others in the congregation who know them and their Christian profession of faith. The sponsors are there to hold the parents to their vows to God to train the child in the Scriptures and in the Christian faith from a Protestant and Reformed perspective. (See Protestant Reformation: Protestant Children and Church Ritual).

The next part of the answer presents a problem for those who think this represents baptismal regeneration, which it does not. “. . . in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” How exactly does baptism make someone “a member of Christ”? The answer is that the children of believers are considered a part of God's covenant promises. As Robinson explains it, baptism does not regenerate the child nor does the faith of the sponsors or the parents substitute vicariously for the faith of the child. Rather the statements about the child being regenerate are a statement of faith that the child will in the future believe for himself or herself:

Some people, however, have naturally felt a difficulty in applying this covenantal idea of baptism to a child, since a child is incapable of the faith which seems essential to the contract. Luther and some of his followers went so far as to suppose that there must be a kind of incipient faith in the child himself. Others have thought that the faith of the sponsors is accepted vicariously for the child’s. But neither of these views is held by the Church of England. The faith which is voiced in the service by sponsors is the child’s own faith, though it is a faith he does not possess as yet. But the sponsors are confident that he will one day have such faith—for reasons we shall be looking at in a moment—and so the faith of the child is, we may say, formally represented at the covenant ceremony. And so when we go on to say: “seeing now that this child is regenerate”, we are not asserting that the child is actually regenerate, but that he is sacramentally or figuratively regenerate. Cranmer, in his answer to Gardiner, defends this sacramental “manner of speech” (as he calls it) in connection with the child’s profession of faith in baptism. “We ought not to be reprehended as vain men or liars,” he says “forasmuch as in common speech we use daily to call sacraments and figures by the names of the things that be signified by them, although they be not the same thing indeed”.2 In other words, the child’s faith is sacramentally represented at baptism, though it does not yet exist. Likewise, we say that the child is regenerate, meaning that he has received the visible sign and seal of regeneration. Whether he is actually regenerate, rests on other grounds than the mere receiving of the sacrament. . . .” (Ibid., page 2).

The covenant is not based on any idea of actual work done in the sacrament but rather on God's promises to save those who believe. Those promises are directed to the children of believers as marked by baptism in infancy. This does not guarantee in any absolute sense that they are elect from before the foundation of the world. (See Ephesians 1:4, 11). However, it does mean that as a general principle the children of believers have the advantage of being baptized and raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They also “inherit” the kingdom of heaven. Notice that the kingdom of heaven is not attained, merited, or earned but “inherited”. Salvation is completely and totally a gift of God. (See Exodus 32:13; Psalm 69:35-36; Acts 2:38-39; Matthew 5:5; Hebrews 6:11-12). Baptism and circumcision are analogous signs, the one being a New Testament equivalent of the other.

The Te Deum Laudamus also emphasizes that salvation is for those who believe and it is believers who enter into the kingdom of God, not those who seek to justify themselves by works of the law:

When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death : thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. (See Morning Prayer).

In other words the baptism of infants does not mean that all who are baptized actually do believe the Gospel when they have reached an age of maturity. Those who die in infancy are saved according to the promise if they have been baptized as children of believers. Robinson reminds us that regeneration and faith are gifts of God. Regeneration is not the result of the exercising of our faith but rather faith is the result of regeneration. (Ibid., pages 2-3). God literally raises sinners from spiritual death and gives them new life in Christ. (John 3:3-8; John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:1-6).



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Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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