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comprehensive, terms. They condemned on the one hand the Papists, who asserted the merit of Good Works, and on the other hand the Antinomians, who denied the necessity of them. And again they condemned the Pelagians, who denied the necessity of God's Grace: and on the other hand the Anabaptists, and others, who denied all Free-Will. (t) But they so worded their Articles, as to comprehend all those, who thought soberly, and moderately, on these points, though they differed from one another in the manner of explaining them. Our reformers here in England in King Edward the Sixth's Time went on the same plan,
(t) It is remarkable that there were the like disputes about Predestination, and Grace in the Romish Church before the Council of Trent, as have been since among the Protestants; that these points were warmly debated in that Council; and that they they purposely framed their decrees in such manner, as to satisfy both parties; that these parties continued their disputes during the sitting of that Council, and each party claimed the authority of the Council on their side; but the fathers, there assembled, never thought fit to explain their own decrees, or decide this controversy. But these differences still subsist in that Church among those who subscribe to the de crees of the Council of Trent. Though this procedure may seem rather unaccountable in a Church which claims an infallible power of deciding all controversies, yet I cannot but applaud their prudence, and wish they had shewn the like moderation in other points. See F. Paul's Hist. of the Council of Trent, b. ii. Heylin's Hist. Quinquart. Controv. c. 3.
and acted with the like prudence and moderation. (u) They were no disciples of Calvin: but they so drew up their Articles, as to include persons of different persuasions in these points. In Queen Elizabeth's reign these Articles were reviewed, and received some alterations; and this is the form of Articles, which we now subscribe to. But the Convocation, who drew up these Articles, though it must be owned that many of them had then imbibed the sentiments of Calvin, yet observed the same moderation as their predecessors had done: nor did they add one single Article in favour of Calvinism. The seventeenth Article, which treats of Predestination, is drawn up without any mention of absolute Reprobation, and tells us that we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; which (w) (as the learned Mr. Strype observes) seems to have been done to prevent any scruple, which might arise to any Protestant against subscribing the said Articles. (r) And accordingly, when soon after dis
(u) See this proved in Dr. Nowell's Answer to Pietas Oxon. p. 76, &c.
(w) Annals of the Reformation, c. 28. See also Third Letter to author of Confessional, p. 33, &c. Dr. Fothergill's Postscript to Sermon on Is. 42, 24. Bull Apologia pro Harmoniâ. Waterland's Supplement to Case of Arian Subscription. (x) See Strype's Life of Whitgift, App. b. iv. N°. 25.
putes ran high on these points, the Calvinists attempted to add new Articles, and gave this reason for it, that these points were not before concluded, and defined, by publick authority.
What then is required of us when we are called upon to subscribe our Articles? and in what sense do we subscribe them? Our Subscription is, as I apprehend, a declaration of our belief, and assent to the truth of the doctrines contained in the Articles: and we are required to subscribe them in the sense of the imposers. We are not to subscribe them in our own sense, or in any sense, which we can possibly put upon the words: for this would in all other cases be esteemed downright prevarication. Nor are we to subscribe them so far only, as they are agreeable to Scripture: for this is no Subscription at all. This amounts to a declaration that we think these Articles agreeable to Scripture so far only as they are agreeable to Scripture, which (y) (as Bishop Conybeare justly observes) is as much trifling with common sense, as with common honesty. But how are we to know the sense of the imposers? I suppose it may in most cases be judged of from the plain, usual, and literal signification of the words used. Where the words of the Article are plain, and determinate, there can be no doubt of
(y) Sermon on Tim. vi. 3, 4. p. 25.
its meaning. Where doctrines are expressly asserted, or errors expressly condemned, those who disbelieve the doctrines so asserted, or hold the er
rors so condemned, cannot honestly subscribe. (No Papist can conscientiously subscribe to our Articles: most of the peculiar tenets of Popery, the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Church, the Merit of Good Works, Purgatory, Transubstantiation, the Worship of Images and Relicks, and Invocation of Saints, are therein expressly condemned. No Socinian, or Arian, can honestly subscribe an Article, which asserts that in the Unity of the Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power, and eternity. No one, who denies the necessity of Divine Grace, can subscribe to the tenth Article: nor can any one, who denies the necessity of Good Works, subscribe to the Twelfth.) (2) But then there are several Articles purposely worded in general terms. To these, persons, who agree in the general doctrine there delivered, may honestly subscribe, though they are of different persuasions in the explication of this general doctrine. And in this case we are to enquire what general doctrine the imposers designed to require our assent to, not what were their private opinions with regard to the particular ex
(z) See Dr. Waterland's Case of Arian Subscription, p. 40. Second Letter to the author of the Confessional, p. 136, &c. p. 160, &c. Dr. Nowell's Answer to Pietas Oxon, p. 119, &c.
plications of it. There is a plain instance of this in the 23d Article, which teaches that it is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministring the sacraments in the congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called, and sent, which be chosen, and called to this work by men, who have publick authority given to them in the congregation to call' and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard. Who those are, is not here determined. The compilers were not willing to condemn, or unchurch, the Reformed Churches abroad: and therefore prudently avoided determining the question whether episcopal ordination is necessary. Those who hold, and those who deny, the necessity of episcopal ordination, may both subscribe to this Article: those only are condemned by it, who hold that a man may preach without any lawful vocation. A like instance of moderation is plainly to be seen in the 28th Article. (a) They purposely avoided defining the manner of Christ's presence in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Nay, they struck out part of an Article among those drawn up in King Edward the Sixth's time, which seemed to deny all corporal presence,
(a) Bp. Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation, vol. ii. b. 3. p. 405.