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The Principles of the Reformation

By Rev Dr. Richard Paul Blakeney

Church Association Monthly Intelligencer, volume 15 - 1881 (issue 11, page 309-311)


The Rev. Dr. Blakeney at the Church Congress at Newcastle-on-Tyne expressed the following important opinions on the Principles of the Reformation:—

One of the leading principles of the English Reformation as bearing on existing controversies is the finality of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. It is taught in the Articles of 1552-3. Protestants described the Mass as blasphemous. The Council of Trent in 1562 denounced anathema against any one who said that is was blasphemous. But in the face of this decree the word blasphemous was substituted in 1571 in the English Articles for the word “forged.” And so while the Articles of 1552-3 described Masses as “forged fables,” the Articles of 1571 denounced them as “blasphemous fables.” Further, in 1571 the word “finished” was substituted for “made,” so that the title of the Thirty-first Article now is, “Of the one oblation of Christ finished on the Cross.” If finished it cannot be continued. That which our Reformers rejected is the notion that the priest offers Christ. The Bennett Judgement in defining the doctrinal limit of the Church adopts the words of Bishop Bull, who says that “Christ is offered not hypostatically, as the Trent fathers have determined, but commemoratively only.” The hypostatic offering means the offering of Christ personal, the living Christ, or as it is in the Article “Christ.” This is rejected by the Church. On this point there was a remarkable unanimity amongst the English Reformers. Bishop Guest gave much trouble by his opposition to the Twenty-ninth Article, but even he wrote a treatise against the Mass, and said:—“For both it and the Communion cannot be jointly regarded. Whoso loveth the one must needs hate the other; for why, they be mere contraries.”

The adoption of the principle of the finality of Christ’s sacrifice led to the following important results:—

1st. The Communion service was reconstructed so thoroughly that, apart from the Scripture quotations, there is very little of the Sarum Office remaining.

2ndly. The word altar, retained in the first book, was struck out of the second Prayer Book, and has remained out.

3rdly. The Peculiar vestments of the Mass were gradually rejected. There is no connection in themselves between chasuble and alb and the Mass, for such vestments were originally worn as ordinary garments, but in the Middle Ages they came to be identified with the Mass. The chasuble as the upper and the alb as the under vestment were worn by the celebrant as his proper dress. According to the Sarum Office, neither cope nor surplice was worn as the distinguishing vestment of the Mass. The first inroad upon mediaeval usage was made in the book of 1549, which directed the celebrant to wear either “the vestment,” that is the chasuble, or cope. But in the book of 1552 the chasuble was entirely rejected, and the surplice adopted instead. The Reformers came to have a horror of the Massing vestments. Ridley in his “Pitious Lamentation,” written on the restoration of Popery, refers to the “disguised apparel which the Popish sacrificing priest, like unto Aaron, must play his part in.”

On the accession of Elizabeth, the second book was restored, but the Queen refused to give her sanction to the Act of Uniformity unless the ornaments of church and ministers were left to her disposal. The Reformers, as it appears from the answer of Guest to Cecil, did not wish for a distinctive Eucharistic vestment. (See Cardwell’s “Conferences.”) To satisfy the Queen, however, the Act of Uniformity made a temporary arrangement, according to which the ornaments were to be worn which were in use by authority of Parliament in the second year of King Edward VI, until the Queen, with the advice of the Metropolitan or Commissioners, took “other order.” The Act did not state what the ornaments were, nor what was meant by the second year of King Edward VI, whether mediaeval use or that of the book of 1549. It is clear, however, that it recognised the authority of Parliament as the warrant for the ornaments, whatever they were, although Parliament was not then so intelligently attached to the Reformed Church as in the present day. That which appeared as a rubric in the Prayer Book of 1559 was simply a note of reference to the Act of Parliament “set in the beginning of the book.”

The question of vestments was left in this unsettled state until 1566, when the “other order” was taken in the Queen’s advertisments published by the Bishops, and in which specific directions were given to the clergy. Did, then, the advertisments appoint chasuble and alb? No, they appointed a surplice with sleeves for the use of the parish clergy, and assigned the cope to cathedral and collegiate churches. The Canons of 1604 followed the advertisements, and so upon the principles of the English Reformation the surplice became the distinguishing vestment of the Anglican Church. While on the one hand the Reformers appointed the surplice, on the other they forbade the use of chasubles and albs in all churches and of the cope in parish churches. The Canons of 1571 forbade the clergy to wear “the grey amice or any other garment which hath been defiled by the like superstition, but every one of them in his own church shall wear only that linen garment which is as yet retained by the Queen’s commandment.” The Queen’s commandment was given in the advertisments.

Cartwright, the Puritan, therefore complained—“All the service and administration is tied to a surplice; in cathedral churches they must have a cope.”

Whitgift, the champion of the Church, said—“Neither do we retain the massing Levitical apparel but that apparel only which Bullinger himself alloweth.” Works, p. 550, vol. iii, P.S.)

There are some who refuse to wear the surplice and insist that the chasuble is the legal Eucharistic vestment. But their contention would prove too much. It would prove that Parker, and Andrewes, and Laud, and Sparrow, and Gunning, and Cosin, and all the Bishops from generation to generation have acted illegally, and were liable to suspension for requiring the use of the surplice. It would prove that the Canons of 1604 are contrary to law; it would prove that the whole practice of the Church for three hundred years has been unlawful. On the contrary, I contend that the surplice instead of the chasuble has been received by the Church on principle, received by the Bishops, without exception, for three centuries, received by the whole body of clergy and laity. But Romish as well as Protestant theologians teach that reception is the very highest authority. The Church in reception has accepted the surplice and rejected the chasuble.

The Royal Supremacy is another of the leading principles of the English Reformation. By the 1st of Elizabeth the Crown received authority for the correction of “all manner of errors, heresies, schisms, &c.” The Sovereign, as Hooker shows, does not act in person, but by delegation. The Royal prerogative was exercised by the Court of Delegates and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Puritans objected to this, and contended for the government of the Church by synods. See the controversy between the Puritans Cartwright and Travers on the one hand, and Whitgift and Hooker on the other. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners appointed by the Queen, many of whom were laymen, tried, and convicted, and deprived many of the Nonconforming clergy. Against this the Puritans stoutly protested in a memorial which may be found in Whitgift’s works. The Anglican Bishops, Elizabethan and Caroline, energetically defended the Royal Supremacy by the example of godly kings under the Jewish and Christian dispensations. The Convocation of 1571 describes the monarch as the “Vicarius Dei.” The Prayer Book of 1636, compiled by Laud, and introduced into Scotland, did not contain the Ornaments’ Rubric as it stood in the English book, but a rubric which directed the clergy to wear such ornaments “as are or shall be prescribed by his Majesty or his successors.” If we had lived in that day our disputes would have been laid before the Court of Delegates, or the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and summarily disposed of.

The Royal Supremacy has been received by the bishops, who are the fathers of the Church, and by all Churchmen for three centuries—an authority in reception which is far higher than the vote of a passing Convocation. Let us, then, give heed to the teaching of the Thirty-fourth Article, which sets forth the grievousness of the offence of him who, “through his private judgment, openly breaks the ceremonies and traditions of the Church approved by common authority,” who “offendeth against the common order of the Church and hurteth the authority of the magistrate, and woundeth the conscience of weak brethren.” What is the common order of the Church (the publicum ordinem, as it is in the Latin Article) but the discipline of Christ as “this Church and realm hath received the same”? Obedience to authority is one of the distinctive principles of the English Reformation. “Will you reverently obey your Ordinary?” is the solemn question put at ordination. Let us now, in this time of distress, act upon this principle contained in our solemn vow, and by God’s blessing many of the evils of which we complain will pass away.


Canon Richard Paul Blakeney (1820-1884) was vicar of Christ Church, Claughton, nr Birkenhead, (Chester Diocese) and founder of the Church Association)

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