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Freedom in the Church
RULING PRINCIPLES OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN THE AGE OF THE REFORMATION
AMONG the more important changes which the Church made at the Reformation constituting its characteristics as the national Church of England, with which the American Episcopal Church is in agreement, are these:
In the first place the Augustinian theology in its dogmatic limitation was rejected, by making the emphatic assertion, which went to the root of Augustinianism and of the Calvinism then rising into power, that humanity had been potentially redeemed in Christ, or in the words of the Church Catechism, "I learn to believe in God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind." For this was the negation of both Augustine and Calvin, that mankind had not been redeemed; that the world still lay under the curse and was a lost and ruined world even after the advent of Christ; that redemption
was still something to be achieved, - it had been made possible for some, it had not actually been accomplished for all mankind or for the world. This thought of an actual and universal redemption occurs again in the prayer of general thanksgiving: "We thank Thee for the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the light of this truth, the dogmas of election, preterition, or reprobation lose their severity and change their character; embodying the inevitable comment on the realities of life, demanding recognition for their spiritual value; their modification or rejection when they become hinderances to the Christian life. (Article XVII.1)
Having got rid of the great negation which had kept the world in bondage in the Middle Ages, and was again in its Calvinistic form
1 One of the common objections to the Thirty-nine Articles is that they teach (Art. XVII) the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. But when this Article is prefaced, as it should be, by the larger doctrine of the Church Catechism, that Christ "hath redeemed me and all mankind," its language assumes the tone of common life, of literature, rather than of dogma. It is true, and who would have it otherwise, that the assurance of being called (vocation) is a most blessed one; while those who have it not are warned against the danger involved in dwelling upon its absence from their experience. Theology like this is not Calvinistic, nor Arminian; it is the attitude of a great Church, based upon the Gospel and illustrated by the realities of life.
threatening human freedom in the age of the Reformation, the Anglican Church reproduces the ancient Catholic charter of human freedom,
the doctrine of the Trinity. In no other church in Christendom is so great prominence given to this central all-inclusive doctrine. In almost every part of the Prayer Book it appears, it is the constant, ever-recurring refrain, it opens the service, it is appended to every psalm and canticle, it is the essence of the creeds, the formula of blessing. It would not have been made so prominent if it were not closely connected with that which is most dear to every human heart, freedom from fear in the inner life of the soul, and freedom from the shackles without, from every tyranny whether of church or state. For the doctrine brings freedom by the proclamation of the coequality of the Son with the Father; since Christ therefore is placed above kings; and thrones must henceforth retain their power by obedience to the will of Christ, - as the Lord Christ hath commanded. On this basis kingship in the English nation rested, and on this foundation it stood secure.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the Magna Charta of ecclesiastical and religious liberty as against any invasion of liberty proceeding from
the secular throne. So long as kings acknowledge Christ as their head and master, the process must be toward emancipation of peoples from every form of bondage. But there were other forms of bondage which hampered the intellect and the conscience and prevented men from entering into the full possession of their inheritance. And one of these was an ancient error which obscured the Lordship of Christ and tended to make His presence and power inoperative. The Anglican Church set forth anew the doctrine of the Incarnation, and placed it again on an historic basis, by refusing any longer to ascribe to the Virgin Mother titles or attributes which exalted her above her Son -. or led to her worship and finally to her practical installation in the place of Christ. This was one of the chief sources of evil in the Church before the Reformation, nullifying the Christian faith, tending to reduce it to the old nature worship of the heathen world. The Anglican Church directed the axe to the root of the evil when it rejected from its formularies the title Mother of God (EOTÓKOs) as applied to Mary. Another designation of Mary, as "ever Virgin," was also rejected. The absence of these designations is striking, when one compares the Anglican ritual with the unreformed ritual of