John Henry Newman.

Tract number ninety; remarks on certain passages in the Thirty-nine articles online

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[The corrections in the Second Edition are put in brackets.]




§ 1. Articles YI. and XX.— Holy Scripture, and the

Authority of the Church
§ 2. Article XI. — Justification by Faith only
§ 3. Articles XII. and XIII. — Works before and after


§ 4. Article XIX.— The Visible Church

§ 5. Article XXI. — General Councils

§ 6. Article XXII. — Purgatory, Pardons, Images, Rel

ics, Invocation of Saints
§ 1. Article XXV. — The Sacraments .
§ 8. Article XXYIII. — Transubstantiation .
§ 9. Article XXXI. — Masses
§ 10. Article XXXII. — Marriage of Clergy .
§ 11. Article XXX V.— The Homilies .
§ 12. Article XXXYH.— The Bishop of Eome















It is often urged, and sometimes felt and grant-
ed, that there are in the Articles propositions or
terms inconsistent with the Catholic faith ; or, at
least, when persons do not go so far as to feel the
objection as of force, they are perplexed how best
to reply to it, or how most simply to explain the
passages on which it is made to rest. The follow-
ing Tract is drawn up with the view of showing
how groundless the objection is, and further of
approximating towards the argumentative answer
to it, of which most men have an implicit appre-
hension, though they may have nothing more.
That there are real difficulties to a Catholic Chris-
tian in the ecclesiastical position of our Church at
this day, no one can deny ; but the statements of
the Articles are not in the number ; and it may
be right at the present moment to insist upon this.
If in any quarter it is supposed that persons who
profess to be disciples of the early Church will
silently concur with those of very opposite senti-
ments in furthering a relaxation of subscriptions,


which, it is imagined, are galling to both parties,
though for different reasons, and that they will do
this against the wish of the great body of the
Church, the writer of the following pages would
raise one voice, at least, in protest against any
such anticipation. Even in such points as he may
think the English Church deficient, never can he,
without a great alteration of sentiment, be party
to forcing the opinion or project of one school
upon another. Iteligious changes, to be beneficial,
should be the act of the whole body ; they are
worth little if they are the mere act of a major-
ity.'- No good can come of any change which is
not heart-felt, a development of feelings springing
up freely and calmly within the bosom of the
whole body itself. Moreover, a change in theo-
logical teaching involves either the commission or
the confession of sin ; it is either the profession or
renunciation of erroneous doctrine, and if it does
not succeed in proving the fact of past guilt, it,
ipso fad, implies present. In other words, every
change in religion carries with it its own con-
demnation, which is not attended by deep repent-
ance. Even supposing, then, that any changes in
contemplation, whatever they were, were good in

♦This is not meant to hinder acts of Catholic consent such as
occurred ann-ntly, when the Catholic body aids one portion of a
particular Church against auothcr portion.


themselves, they would cease to be good to a
church, in which they were the fruits not of the
quiet conviction of all, but of the agitation, or
tyranny, or intrigue of a few; nurtured not in
mutual love, but in strife and envying ; perfected
not in humiliation and grief, but in pride, elation,
and triumph. Moreover it is a very serious truth
that persons and bodies who put themselves into
a disadvantageous state, cannot at their pleasure
extricate themselves from it. They are unworthy
of it; they are in prison, and Christ is the
keeper. There is but one way towards a real
reformation, — a return to Him in heart and spirit,
whose sacred truth they have betrayed ; all other
methods, however fair they may promise, will
prove to be but shadows and failures.

On these grounds, were there no others, the
present writer, for one, will be no party to the
ordinary political methods by which professed re-
forms are carried or compassed in this day. We
can do nothing well till we act " with one accord ;"
we can have no accord in action till we agree
together in heart; we cannot agree without a
supernatural influence ; we cannot have a super-
natural influence unless we pray for it ; we cannot
pray acceptably without repentance and confes-
sion. Our Church's strength would be irresistible,
humanly speaking, were it but at unity with itself ;
if it remains divided, part against part, we shall see


the energy which was meant to subdue the world
preying upon itself, according to our Saviour's
express assurance, that such a house "cannot
stand." Till we feel this, till we seek one another
as brethren, not lightly throwing aside our pri-
vate opinions, which we seem to feel we have
received from above, from an ill-regulated, untrue
desire of unity, but returning to each other in
heart, and coming together to God to do for us
what we cannot do for ourselves, no change can
be for the better. Till [we] are stirred up to this
religious course, let the Church [our Mother] sit
still ; let [her children] be content to be in bond-
age ; let [us] submit to [our] imperfections as a
punishment ; let [us] go on teaching [through
the medium of indeterminate statements], and
inconsistent precedents, and principles but par-
tially developed. We are not better than our
lathers ; let us bear to be what Hammond was, or
Andrews, or Hooker ; let us not faint under that
body of death, which they bore about in patience ;
nor shrink from the penalty of sins, which they
inherited from the age before them.*

But these remarks are beyond our present scope,

* " We, thy sinful creatures," says the Service for King Charles
the Martyr, " here assembled before Thee, do, in behalf of all
the people of this land, humbly confess, that they were the cry-
ing sins of this nation, which brought down this judgment upon
ua, n i. e., King Charles's murder.


which is merely to show that, while our Prayer
Book is acknowledged on all hands to be of Cath-
olic origin, our Articles also, the offspring of an
uncatholic age, are, through God's good provi-
dence, to say the least, not uncatholic, and may
be subscribed by those who aim at being catholic
in heart and doctrine. In entering upon the pro-
posed examination, it is only necessary to add,
that in several places the writer has found it con-
venient to express himself in language recently
used, which he is willing altogether to make his
own. He has distinguished the passages intro-
duced by quotation marks.


§ 1. — Holy Scripture and the Authority of the

Articles VI. and XX. — " Holy Scripture con-
tainetli all things necessary to salvation ; so that
whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved
thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it
should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be
thought requisite or necessary to salvation. . . .
The Church hath [power to decree (statuendi)
rites and ceremonies, and] authority in contro-
versies of faith ; and yet it is not lawful for the
Church to [ordain (institu'ere) any thing that is
contrary to God's word written, neither may it]
so expound one place of Scripture, 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 (decernere) any thing
against the same, so] besides the same, ought it
not to enforce (obtrudere) any thing to be be-
lieved for necessity of salvation."*

* The passages in brackets (all) relate to rites and ceremonies
which are not here in question. [From brackets marking the
Second Edition, must bo excepted those which occur in quota-


Two instruments of Christian teaching are
spoken of in these Articles, Holy Scripture and
the Church.

Here then we have to inquire, first, what is
meant by Holy Scripture ; next, what is meant by
the Church; and then, what their respective
offices are in teaching revealed truth, and how
these are adjusted with one another in their actual

1. Now, what the Church is, will be considered
below in Section 4.

2. And the Books of Holy Scripture are enu-
merated in the latter part of the Article, so as to
preclude question. Still two points deserve no-
tice here.

First, the Scriptures or Canonical Books are
said to be those " of whose authority was never
any doubt in the Church." Here it is not meant
that there never was any doubt in portions of
the Church or jmrtlcular Churches concerning
certain books, which the Article includes in the
Canon ; for some of them — as, for instance, the
Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse — have
been the subject of much doubt in the West or
East, as the case may be. But the Article asserts
that there has been no doubt about them in the
Church Catholic ; that is, at the very first time
that the Catholic or whole Church had the oppor-
tunity of forming a judgment on the subject, it


pronounced in favor of the Canonical Books. The
Epistle to the Hebrews was doubted by the West,
and the Apocalypse by the East, only while those
portions of the Church investigated separately
from each other, only till they compared notes,
interchanged sentiments, and formed a united
judgment. The phrase must mean this, because,
from the nature of the case, it can mean nothing

And next, be it observed, that the books which
are commonly called Apocrypha, are not asserted
in this Article to be destitute of inspiration or to
be simply human, but to be not canonical; in
other words, to differ from Canonical Scripture,
specially in this respect, viz., that they are not
adducible in proof of doctrine. " The other books
(as Hierome Baith) the Church doth read for ex-
ample of life and instruction of manners, but yet
doth not apply them to establish any doctrine."
That this is the limit to which our disparagement
of them extends, is plain, not only because the
Article mentions nothing beyond it, but also from
the reverential manner in which the Homilies
speak of them, as shall be incidentally shown in
8 lion 11. [The compatibility of such reverence
with such disparagement is also shown from the
feeling towards them of St. Jerome, who is quoted
in the Article, who implies more or less their
inferiority to Canonical Scripture, yet uses them

ETC. 13

freely and continually, as if Scripture. He dis-
tinctly names many of the books which he con-
siders not canonical, and virtually names them all,
by naming what are canonical. For instance, he
says, speaking of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, " As
the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the Macca-
bees, without receiving them among the Canonical
Scriptures, so she reads these two books for the
edification of the people, not for the confirma-
tion of the authority of ecclesiastical doctrines."
(Propf. in Libr. Salom.) Again, " The Wisdom,
as it is commonly styled, of Solomon, and the
book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith, and
Tobias, and the Shepherd, are not in the Canon."
(Prmf. ad lieges.) Such is the language of a
writer who nevertheless is, to say the least, not
wanting in reverence towards the book he thus

A further question may be asked, concerning
our received version of the Scriptures, whether it
is in any sense imposed on us as a true comment
on the original text ; as the Vulgate is upon the
Koman Catholics. It would appear not. It was
made and authorized by royal command, which
cannot be supposed to have any claim upon our
interior consent. At the same time every one
who reads it in the Services of the Church, does,
of course, thereby imply that he considers that it
contains no deadly heresy or dangerous mistake.


And about its simplicity, majesty, gravity, har-
mony, and venerableness, there can be but one

3. [Next we come to the main point, the adjust-
ment which this Article effects between the respec-
tive offices of the Scripture and Church; which
seems to be as follows.

It is laid down that, 1. Scripture contains all
necessary articles of the faith ; 2. Either in its
text, or by inference ; 3. The Church is the keeper
of Scripture; 4. And a witness of it; .">. And has
authority in controversies of faith ; 6. But may
not expound one passage of Scripture to contra-
dict another ; 7. JS"or enforce as an article of faith
any point not contained in Scripture.

From this it appears, first, that the Church
expounds and enforces the faith ; for it is forbid-
den to expound in a particular way, or so to
enforce as to obtrude ; next, that it derives the
faith wholly from Scripture : thirdly, that its
office is to educe an hartnoni&us interpretation of
Scripture. This much the Article settles.

Two important questions, however, it does not
settle, viz., whether the Church judges, first, at her
I < turn, next, on her aolt n sponsibility; i. e.,
first, what the media arc by which the Church
interprets Scripture, whether by a direct divine
gift, or catholic tradition, or critical exegesis of
the text, or in any other way ; and next, who is


to decide whether it interprets Scripture rightly
or not ; — what is her method, if any ; and who is
her judge, if any. In other words, not a word is
said, on the one hand, in favor of Scripture hav-
ing no rule or method to fix interpretation by, or,
as it is commonly expressed, oeing the sole rule of
faith • nor on the other, of the private judgment
of the individual being the ultimate standard of
interpretation. So much has been said lately on
both these points, and indeed on the whole subject
of these two Articles, that it is unnecessary to
enlarge upon them ; but since it is often supposed
to be almost a first principle of our Church, that
Scripture is " the rule of faith," it may be well,
before passing on, to make an extract from a
paper, published some years since, which shows,
by instances from our divines, that the application
of the phrase to Scripture is but of recent adop-
tion. The other question, about the ultimate
judge of the interpretation of Scripture, shall not
be entered upon.

" We may dispense with the phrase ' Rule of
Faith,' as applied to Scripture, on the ground of
its being ambiguous; and, again, because it is
then used in a novel sense ; for the ancient Church
made the Apostolic Tradition, as summed up in
the Creed, and not the Bible, the Segula Fidei,
or Eule. Moreover, its use as a technical phrase,
seems to be of late introduction in the Church,


that is, since the clays of King William the Third.
Our great divines used it without any fixed sense,
sometimes for Scripture, sometimes for the whole
and perfectly adjusted Christian doctrine, some-
times for the Creed; and, at the risk of being
tedious, we will prove this, by quotations, that the
point may be put beyond dispute.

" Ussher, after St. Austin, identifies it with the
Creed; — when speaking of the Article of our
Lord's Descent to Hell, he says —

" ' It having here likewise been further manifested, what dif-
ferent opinions have been entertained by the ancient Doctors of
the Church, concerning the determinate place wherein our Saviour's
soul did remain during the time of the separation of it from the
body, I leave it to be considered by the learned, whether any
such controverted matter may fitly be brought in to expound the
Rule of Faith, which, being common both to the great and small
ones of the Church, must contain such varieties only as are gener-
„ ally agreed upon by the common consent of all true Christians.'
S . — Answer to a Jesuit, p. 362.

* * *\%f " Taylor speaks to the same purpose : k Let us

^ *Jj( see with what constancy that and the following

p / ages of the Church did adhere to the Apostles'

!\ I Creed, as the sufficient and perfect Rule of faith?

r* ^ — Dissuasive, part 2, i. 4, p. 470. Elsewhere he

1/ calls Scripture the Rule : ' That the Scripture is a

full and sufficient RuU to Christians in faith and

manners, a full and perfect declaration of the Will

of God, is therefore certain, because we have no

other.'— Ibid., part 2, i. 2, p. 384. Elsewhere,


Scripture and the Creed : ' He hath, by His wise
Providence, preserved the plain places of Scrip-
ture and the Apostles' Creed, in al l Churc hes, to ^/V \
be the Rule and Measure of Faith, by which all
Churches are saved.' — Ibid., part 2, i. 1, p. 346.
Elsewhere he identifies it with Scripture, the
Creeds, and the first four Councils : ' We also
[after Scripture] do believe the Apostles' Creed,
the Nicene, with the additions of Constantinople,
and that which is commonly called the Symbol
of St. Athanasius ; and the four first General
Councils, are so entirely admitted by us, that they,
together with the plain words of Scripture, are
made the Rule and Measure of judging heresies
among us.' — Ibid., part 1, i. p. 131.

" Laud calls the Creed, or rather the Creed with
Scripture, the Rule. ' Since the Fathers make
the Creed the Rule of Faith ; since the agreeing
sense of Scripture with those Articles are the Two
Regidar Precepts, by which a divine is governed
about his faith,' &c. — Conference with Fisher,
p. 42.

" Bramhall also : ' The Scriptures and the Creed
are not two different Rules of Faith, but one and
the same Rule, dilated in Scripture, contracted in
the Creed? — Works, p. 402. Stillingfleet says the
same {Grounds, i. 4. 3.) ; as does Thorndike (De
Rat. fin. Controv., p. 144, &c). Elsewhere, Still-
ingfleet calls Scripture the Rule (Ibid., i. 6. 2.) ;


as does Jackson (vol. i. p. 220). But 4;he most
complete and decisive statement on the subject is
contained in Field's work on the Church, from
which shall follow a long extract.

11 ' It remained to show,' he says, ' what is the Rule of that
judgment whereby the Church disccrneth between truth and
falsehood, the faith and heresy, and to whom it properly per-
taineth to interpret those things which, touching this Rule, are
doubtful. The Rule of our Faith in general, whereby we know
it to be true, is the infinite excellency of God. ... It being
presupposed in the generality that the doctrine of the Christian
Faith is of God, and containeth nothing but heavenly truth, in
the nest place, we are to inquire by what Rule we are to judge
of particular things contained within the compass of it.

" ' This Rule is, 1. The summary comprehension of such princi-
pal articles of this diviue knowledge, as are the principles whence
all oilier things are concluded and inferred. These are contained
in the Creed of the Apostle*.

11 ' 2. All such things as every Christian is bound expressly to
believe, by the light and direction whereof he judgeth of other
things, which are not absolutely necessary so particularly to be
known. These are rightly said to be the Rule of our Faith, be-
cause the principles of every science are the Rule whereby we
judge of the truth of all things, as being better and more gen-
erally known than any other thing, and the cause of knowing

'• ' ?,. The analogy, due proportion, and correspondence, that
one thing in this divine knowledge hath with another, so that
men cannot err in one of them without erring in another; nor
rightly understand one, but they must likewise rightly conceive
the rest.

" ' i. Whatsoever Books were delivered unto us, as written by
them, to whom the first and immediate revelation of the divine
truth was made.


" • 5. Whatsoever hath been delivered by all the saints with
one consent, which have left their judgment and opinion in wri-

" ' 6. Whatsoever the most famous have constantly and uni-
formly delivered, as a matter of faith, no one contradicting,
though many other ecclesiastical writers be silent, and say noth-
ing of it.

" ' 7. That which the most, and most famous in every age, con-
stantly delivered as a matter of faith, and as received of them
that went before them, in such sort that the contradictors and
gainsayers were in their beginnings noted for singularity, nov-
elty, and division, and afterwards, in process of time, if they per-
sisted in such contradiction, charged with heresy.

" 4 These three latter Rules of our Faith we admit, not because
they are equal with the former, and originally in themselves con-
tain the direction of our Faith, but because nothing can be de-
livered, with such and so full consent of the people of G«d, as in
them is expressed ; but it must need be from those first authors
and founders of our Christian profession. The Romanists add
unto these the decrees of Councils and determinations of Popes,
making these also to be the Rules of Faith ; but because we have
no proof of their infallibility, we number them not with the rest.

" ' Thus we see how many things, in several degrees and sorts,
are said to be Rules of our Faith. The infinite excellency of
God, as that whereby the truth of the heavenly doctrine is
proved. The Articles of Faith, and other verities ever expressly
known in the Church as the first principles, are the Canon by
which we judge of conclusions from thence inferred. The Scrip-
ture, as containing in it all that doctrine of Faith which Christ
the Son of God delivered. The uniform practice and consenting
judgment of them that went before us, as a certain and un-
doubted explication of the things contained in the Scripture. . . .
So, then, we do not make Scripture the Rule of our Faith, but
that other things in their kind are Rules likewise; in such sort that
it is not safe, vnthout respect had unto them, to judge things by the
Scripture aloneS etc. — iv. 14. pp. 364, 365.


" These extracts show not only what the Angli-
can doctrine is, but, in particular, that the phrase
' Rule of Faith' is no symbolical expression with
us, appropriated to some one sense ; certainly not'
as a definition or attribute of Holy Scripture.
And it is important to insist upon this, from the
very great misconceptions to which the phrase
gives rise. Perhaps its use had better be avoided
altogether. In the sense in which it is commonly
understood at this day, Scripture, it is plain, is
not, on Anglican principles, the Rule of Faith."


§ 2. — Justification by Faith only.

Article XL — " That we are justified by Faith
only, is a most wholesome doctrine."

The Homilies add that Faith is the sole means,
the sole instrument of justification. Now, to show
briefly what such statements imply, and what they
do not :

1. They do not imply a denial of Baptism as a
means and an instrument of justification ; which
the Homilies elsewhere affirm, as will be shown
incidentally in a later section.

" The instrumental power of Faith cannot in-
terfere with the instrumental power of Baptism ;
because Faith is the sole justifier, not in contrast
to all means and agencies whatever (for it is not
surely in contrast to our Lord's merits, or God's
mercy), but to all other graces. When, then,
Faith is called the sole instrument, this means the
sole internal instrument, not the sole instrument
of any kind.

" There is nothing inconsistent, then, in Faith
being the sole instrument of justification, and yet
Baptism also the sole instrument, and that at the
same time, because in distinct senses ; an inward


instrument in no way interfering with an outward
instrument, Baptism may be the hand of the
giver, and Faith the hand of the receiver."

Kor docs the sole instrumentality of Faith in-
terfere with the doctrine of Works being a mean
also. And that it is a mean, the Homily of
Alms-deeds declares in the strongest language, as
will also be quoted in Section 11.

"An assent to the doctrine that Faith alone
justifies, does not at all preclude the doctrine of

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanTract number ninety; remarks on certain passages in the Thirty-nine articles → online text (page 1 of 9)