Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blessed John Henry Newman: Tract 90: More Maligned than Read

O God, who didst grant the priest blessed John Henry to follow thy kindly light and to find peace in thy Church: graciously grant that by his intercession and example, we may be drawn from shadows and shades into the fullness of thy truth: through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.


One remark may be made in conclusion. It may be objected that the tenor of the above explanations is anti-Protestant, whereas it is notorious that the Articles were drawn up by Protestants, and intended for the establishment of Protestantism; accordingly, that it is an evasion of their meaning to give them any other than a Protestant drift, possible as it may be to do so grammatically, or in each separate part.

But the answer is simple:—

1. In the first place, it is a duty which we owe both to the Catholic Church and to our own, to take our reformed confessions in the most Catholic sense they will admit; we have no duties towards their framers. Nor do we receive the Articles from their original framers, but from several successive Convocations after their time; in the last instance, from that of 1662.

2. In giving the Articles a Catholic interpretation, we bring them into harmony with the Book of Common Prayer, an object of the most serious moment for those who have given their assent to both formularies.

3. Whatever be the authority of the Declaration prefixed to the Articles, so far as it has any weight at all, it sanctions the mode of interpreting them above given. For its enjoining the "literal and grammatical sense," relieves us from the necessity of making the known opinions of their framers, a comment upon their text; and its forbidding any person to "affix any new sense to any Article," was promulgated at a time when the leading men of our Church were especially noted for those Catholic views which have been here advocated.

4. It may be remarked, moreover, that such an interpretation is in accordance with the well-known general leaning {345} of Melanchthon, from whose writings our Articles are principally drawn, and whose Catholic tendencies gained for him that same reproach of popery, which has ever been so freely bestowed upon members of our own reformed Church.

"Melanchthon was of opinion," says Mosheim, "that for the sake of peace and concord many things might be given up and tolerated, in the Church of Rome, which Luther considered could by no means be endured ... In the class of matters indifferent, this great man and his associates placed many things which had appeared of the highest importance to Luther, and could not of consequence be considered as indifferent by his true disciples. For he regarded as such, the doctrine of justification by faith alone; the necessity of good works to eternal salvation; the number of the sacraments; the jurisdiction claimed by the Pope and the Bishops; extreme unction; the observation of certain religious festivals, and several superstitious rites and ceremonies."—Cent. XVI. § 3. part 2. 27, 28.

5. Further: the Articles are evidently framed on the principle of leaving open large questions, on which the controversy hinges. They state broadly extreme truths, and are silent about their adjustment. For instance, they say that all necessary faith must be proved from Scripture, but do not say who is to prove it. They say that the Church has authority in controversies, they do not say what authority. They say that it may enforce nothing beyond Scripture, but do not say where the remedy lies when it does. They say that works before grace and justification are worthless and worse, and that works after grace and justification are acceptable, but they do not speak at all of works with GOD'S grace, before justification. They say that men are lawfully called and sent to minister and preach who are chosen and called by men who have public authority given them in the congregation to call and send; but they do not add by whom the authority is to be given. They say that Councils called by princes may err; they do not determine whether Councils called in the name of CHRIST will err. {346}

6. The variety of doctrinal views contained in the Homilies, as above shown, views which cannot be brought under Protestantism itself, in its greatest comprehension of opinions, is an additional proof, considering the connexion of the Articles with the Homilies, that the Articles are not framed on the principle of excluding those who prefer the theology of the early ages to that of the Reformation; or rather let it be considered whether, considering both Homilies and Articles appeal to the Fathers and Catholic Antiquity, in interpreting them by these witnesses, we are not going to the very authority to which they profess to submit.

7. Lastly, their framers constructed them in such a way as best to comprehend those who did not go so far in Protestantism as themselves. Anglo-Catholics then are but the successors and representatives of those moderate reformers; and their case has been directly anticipated in the wording of the Articles. It follows that they are not perverting, they are using them for an express purpose for which among others their authors framed them. The interpretation Anglo-Catholics take was intended to be admissible; though not that which those authors took themselves. Had it not been provided for, possibly the Articles never would have been accepted by our Church at all. If, then, their framers have gained their side of the compact in effecting the reception of the Articles, let Catholics have theirs too in retaining their own Catholic interpretation of them.

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