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held thirty-six several sessions ; sometimes at the Chapter house, and sometimes, by continuation, at King Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westıninster. Archbishop Parker presided, and was the great mover of all its proceedings. The Convocation began by taking into consideration the Articles of Edward the Sixth. From forty-two, they reduced them to thirty-nine, making alterations in some of them. With these alterations, the Convocation adopted them unanimously; and thus, they had all the authority that the convocation of Canterbury could confer on them. .
In 1566, a bill was brought into parliament to confirm them. It passed the Commons; but was dropt in the house of Lords, by the Queen's particular command. In the year 1571, the Convocation revised the articles of 1562, and made some alterations in them. In the same year an act was passed “ to provide, that the Ministers of the Church should be of sound religion.” It enacted, that all ecclesiastical persons should subscribe to “all the articles of Religion, which only concerned the confession of the true faith, and of the Sacraments, comprised in a book, imprinted, entitled “ Articles, whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and Bishops,, and the whole Clergy in Convocation, holden at London, in the year of our Lord God, 1562, according to the computation of the Church of England, for the avoiding of the diversities of opinions, and for the establishing of consent touching true religion, put forth by the Queen's authority.” All the acts of parliament, made subsequently to this time, which mention the Articles, refer to this act, as settling the Articles, and the rule of subscription to them.
For some reason, which does not now appear, they were confirmed, in 1604, by the Convocation of Canterbury. In 1628, an edition of them, in the English language, was published by the royal authority. To this edition, a declaration of King Charles the First is prefixed. It is the exemplar of all the subsequent editions.
Having given the substance of the Confession of Augsburgh, and mentioned the principal points, in which the confessions of the Reformed Churches generally differed from it, the nature of these pages seems to require, that we should now present our readers with a short view of the religious creed expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles, but we are sensible that our readers are too well acquainted with them to make this necessary.
An elegant account of the Creed which they contain, is given in his eighth Bampton lecture, by Doctor Eveleigh, the late learned and accomplished Provost of Oriel college. He concludes it by observing, '“ that they were principally intended to ascertain and deliver down the essential doctrine of Christianity;" that “the remaining parts of them were as obviously directed against the dangerous opinions of the different adversaries of the Church of England;" that “ all, which was admitted on the latter head, was supplied in a considerable degree, under Elizabeth, by the Canons which she enforced during her government.” These, he adds, “ were permanently provided for by the body of Canons which were enacted in the first year of her successor's reign ; and which at present describe and enforce the different parts of the ecclesiastical system of the Church of England; and were intended to supply the place of the Canons and Decretals of the Church of Rome.”
From the former part of this work it appears, that the doctrines on which the Confessions of faith principally differ among themselves, respect Predestination and the Sacrament of our Lord's Supper. To these the 17th and 28th of the Thirty-nine Articles relate. The language in which these are couched shews, that the framers of them wished to express them in terms, which, if they did not conciliate, would not offend the maintainers of the opposite opinions.
The Controversy on the Authentic Edition of the Thirty-nine
It has been mentioned, that the act of 1571, by which the Thirty-nine Articles were legally sanctioned, describes them, as “ the Articles of Religion comprised in a book, imprinted, entitled Articles, whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and bishops and the whole clergy in the convocation holden at London, in the year of our Lord God, 1562, according to the computation of the Church of England, for avoiding of the divers sities of opinions, and for establishing of consent, touching true religion, put forth by the Queen's authority.” The point on which the controversy in question wholly turns, is, which is the imprinted book, thus described.
This would be of no consequence, if we possessed the original manuscript, from which the book, to which the act of parliament refers, was printed: but the original manuscript was certainly burned in the fire of London.
The book to which the act refers, must be some book printed before the bill, which refers to it, was brought into parliament; and the book must have the title mentioned in the act. Now, both in the prior printed editions, whether in English, or Latin ; and in the prior English and Latin manuscripts of the Thirtynine Articles, which have reached us, there are numberless various readings; and some of these materially affect the sense of the text. This evidently makes it important to ascertain the edition referred to by the act of parliament of 1571. One of the most important of these various readings is to be found in the twentieth article.
In the text of the edition of 1628, and in all the subsequent editions, this article is expressed in the following terms, “ The Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies ; and authority in controversies of Faith ; and yet it is not lawful for
the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's word written ; neither may it expound one place of scriptures, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so, besides the same, ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation.”
It is doubted by many, whether the first paragraph of this article, “ the church has power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith,”—was inserted in the printed copy of these articles, which was legislatively sanctioned by the act of 1671.
At the trial of Archbishop Laud he was accused of having fabricated this paragraph. With great indignation and eloquence he denied the fact; asserted, that it made a part of the cląuse as it stood originally, and charged his accusers with having wickedly caused it to be left out of the copies.
In 1710, the celebrated Anthony Collins revived the charge in a pamphlet, entitled, “ Priestcraft in Perfection, or a detection of the fraud of inserting and continuing this clause,(The Church hath power to decree Rites and Ceremonies, and authority in controversies of Faith,) in the 20th Article of the Articles of the Church of England.”
An able defence of the authenticity of the paragraph was published in 1710, under the title “ A Vindication of the Church of England from the aspersions of a late libel, entitled • Priestcraft in Perfection,' wherein, the controverted clause of the Church's power in the 20th Article is shown to be of equal authority with all the rest of the articles: and the Fraud and Forgery charged upon the Clergy, on the account of this clause, are relorted upon their accusers; with a Preface containing some remarks upon the Reflections in that Pamphlet, by a Priest of the Church of England.”
This was followed in 1715, by "an Essay on the 39 Articles of Religion, agreed on in 1562, and revived in 1571, wherein(the text being first exhibited in Latin and English, and the minutest variations of 18 the most antient and authentic copies carefully noted),— An account is given of the proceedings of Convocation in framing and settling the text of the Articles. The controverted clause of the 20th Article demonstrated to be genuine : and the case of subscription to the articles is considered in point of Law, History und Conscience : with a Prefatory Epistle to Anthony Collins Esq. wherein the egregious Falsehoods and calumnies of the Author of Priestcraft in Perfection are exposed,—by Thomas Bennett, D. D. Rector of St. James's in Colchester.”
To both these answers, a reply was published in 1724, entitled, “ An Historical and Critical Essay on the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England; wherein it is demonstrated, that the clause,—the Church has power to decree Rites and Ceremonies, and Controversies of Faith, inserted in the 20th Article,'—is not a part of the Articles, as they were established by act of Parliament, of 13 of Queen Elizabeth, or agreed by the Convocation of 1569 or 1571.".
All these works discover talent, research and discernment; but all of them are written with too great asperity. .
Several other works, on the same subject, have been written ; but it is probable, that nothing is contained in any of them, which is not to be found in those that have been cited. .
They do not appear to the writer of these pages to lead to any certain conclusion. It is not bis intention to discuss the question : he has the satisfaction of being able to inform the reader, that it is in the hands of the most learned Rector of St. Paul's Church, Deptford. The following remark only, he begs leave to present to the consideration of bis readers.
All expectations of ascertaining, that any one of the printed editions, which have reached us, is the edition of the Thirty-nine Articles, referred to by the act of 1571, or expresses its text, must now be considered hopeless. But, as the act of 1571 mentions, that the articles contained in the printed book, are those “ agreed on by the Archbishops and Bishops, and the whole Clergy at the Convocation held in London, in the year 1562,” it may be thought, that the point may be gained, or