Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category

The Doctrine of Perseverance and the Church of England

March 28, 2011

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), first Anglican bishop of Liverpool

In the following extract J.C. Ryle convincingly argues that the Perseverance of the Saints is the old doctrine of the Church of England.

By J.C. Ryle

There are few subjects about which English people are so ignorant as they are about the real doctrines of the Church of England. Many persons know nothing of the theological opinions of the English Reformers, and of all leading English Divines for nearly a century after the Protestant Reformation. They call opinions old which in reality are new, and they call opinions new which in reality are old.

It would be a waste of time to inquire into the causes of this ignorance. Certain it is that it exists. Few people seem to be aware that those doctrines which now are commonly called evangelical, were the universally received divinity of English Churchmen throughout the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I. They are not, as many ignorantly suppose, new-fangled views of modern invention. They are simply the old paths in which the Reformers and their immediate successors walked. Tractarianism, High Churchism, and Broad Churchism are new systems. Evangelical teaching is neither more nor less than the old school.

The proof of this assertion is to be found in the Church history of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, and in the writings of the divines of that period. Far be it from me to defend all the sayings and doings of theologians of that date. The student will find in their writings abundant traces of intolerance, illiberality, and bigotry, which I would be the last to defend. But that the vast majority of all Churchmen in that day held doctrines which are now called Calvinistic and Evangelical, is to my mind as clear as noon-day: and upon no point does the evidence appear to me so clear as upon the doctrine of perseverance.

(1) Is it not a historical fact, that in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, in the year 1595, the University of Cambridge compelled Mr. Barret, of Caius college, to read a public recantation and apology in St. Mary’s Church, for having denied the doctrines of final perseverance and election?—The Church of England’s old Antithesis to new Arminianism by William Prynne, page 56.

(2) Is it not a historical fact, that the Articles drawn up by the Vice-Chancellor and heads of the University of Cambridge, against the above-mentioned Barret, conclude with the following words? “This doctrine, being not about inferior points of matters indifferent, but of the substantial ground, and chief comfort and anchor ground of our salvation, hath been to our knowledge continually and generally received, taught, and defended in this University, in lectures, disputations, and sermons, and in other places in sermons, since the beginning of her Majesty’s reign, and is so still holden; and we take it agreeable to the doctrine of the Church of England—Edwards Veritas Redux, page 534.

(3) Is it not a historical fact, that in the same Queen Elizabeth’s reign, in the same year, 1595, the Lambeth Articles were drawn up and approved by Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Bancroft (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury); and that they contain the following proposition: “A true living and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God who justifies, is not extinguished, falleth not away, vanisheth not in the elect, either finally or totally.” These articles were not added to our confession of faith; but Fuller’s words nevertheless are perfectly true: “The testimony of these learned divines is an infallible evidence what were the general and received doctrines of England in that age.”—Fuller’s Church History. Tegg’s edition. Third volume, page 150.

(4) Is it not a historical fact, that in the year 1604, in James the First’s reign, this doctrine of perseverance was considered at the Hampton Court Conference. The Puritan party wished the Lambeth Articles to be added to the Thirty-nine Articles. Their request was not granted: but on what grounds? Not because the doctrine of perseverance was objected to, but because King James thought it better “not to stuff the book of Articles with all conclusions theological While even Overall, Dean of St. Paul’s, whose soundness on this point was most suspected, used these remarkable words: “Those who are justified according to the purpose of God’s election, though they might fall into grievous sin, and thereby into the present estate of damnation, yet never totally nor finally fall from justification, but are in time renewed by God’s Spirit unto lively faith and repentance”—Fuller’s Church History, third volume, page 181.

(5) Is it not a historical fact, that the first exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, published after the Reformation, contains a full and distinct assertion of the doctrine of perseverance, in the part which treats of the Seventeenth Article? I allude to the work of Thomas Rogers, Chaplain to Archbishop Bancroft, to whom the book was dedicated, 1607.—Rogers on the thirty-nine Articles. Parker Society Edition.

(6) Is it not a historical fact, that in the year 1612, King James the First published a declaration written by himself, against one Vorstius, an Arminian divine, in which he calls the doctrine, that the saints may fall away, “A wicked doctrine, a blasphemous heresy, directly contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England.”—Prynne. Church of England Antithesis, etc., page 206.

(7) Is it not a historical fact, that the same King James the First, in the same year 1612, wrote a letter to the States of Holland, in consequence of a Dutch divine, named Bertius, having written a book on the Apostasy of the Saints, and sent it to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this letter, the King speaks of Bertius as “a pestilent heretic,” and called his doctrine “an abominable heresy,” and in one place says, “he is not ashamed to lie so grossly as to avow that the heresies contained in the said book are agreeable with the religion and profession of the Church of England.”—Prynne. Church of England’s Antithesis to Arminianism, page 206.

(8) Is it not a historical fact, that the same King James the First, in the year 1616, visited with severe displeasure a clergyman named Sympson, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, for preaching before him at Royston, that true believers may totally fall away?—Fuller’s History of Cambridge, page 160.

(9) Is it not a historical fact, that in the Synod of Dort, in the year 1619, the doctrine of final perseverance was strongly asserted? Now several English Divines were formally deputed to attend this Synod and take part in its proceedings, and amongst others, Bishop Davenant, and Bishop Carleton. And is it not notorious that however much they differed from the conclusions of the Synod in the matters of discipline, they “approved all the points of doctrine?”—Fuller’s Church History, vol. 3, page 279.

(10) Last, but not least, is it not a historical fact, that all the leading Archbishops and Bishops in the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First, were thorough Calvinists in matters of doctrine? And is not a notorious fact that the final perseverance of the saints is one of the leading principles of the system that is called Calvinistic? Heylin himself is obliged to confess this. He says, “It was safer for any man in those times to have been looked upon as a heathen or publican than an anti-Calvinist.”—Heylin’s Life of Laud, page 52.

I lay these ten facts before my readers and ask his serious attention to them. I am unable to understand how any one can avoid the conclusion which may be drawn from them. To me it appears an established point in history, that the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is the old doctrine of the Church of England, and the denial of this doctrine is new.

Source: John Charles Ryle, Old paths being plain statements on some of the weightier matters of Christianity, (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1977), pp.518-520.


Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England

March 24, 2011
Augustus Toplady

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740–1778)

Published in 1774, The Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England is Augustus Toplady’s magnus opus, a massive study that has never been refuted. Read online»

For anyone interested in learning more about the doctrine or history of Calvinism, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady (6 vols.) from Logos Bible Software is highly recommended and now available for pre-order. For more info click here»

For a brief biographical summary of Augustus Toplady’s life and works click here»

The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-19)

March 22, 2011

Just ordered.

The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-19) (Church of England Record Society) [Hardcover]
Anthony Milton (Author, Editor)
475 pages, Boydell Press (September 15, 2005)

Product Description

The Synod of Dort (1618-19) was one of the most remarkable and important gatherings of Protestant divines ever assembled. Summoned to resolve doctrinal disputes in the Netherlands, it involved theologians from a number of other countries, including Britain. The precise role played by delegates of the Church of England at the synod has been the subject of intense disagreement ever since. Drawing on new sources discovered in English and Dutch archives, this volume provides a wide-ranging collection of edited documents (many previously unpublished) which make it possible for the first time to construct a thorough and fully contextualized account of the role played by the British delegates. Different sections of the book tackle the political and theological background to the synod, the submissions of the British delegation on issues ranging from predestination and episcopacy to catechizing and bible translation, and also the aftermath of the synod and the later defences of it by the British delegates. The primary source material is set in context by a substantial introduction, which argues for a major reassessment of the role of the British divines at the synod, and emphasizes the importance of the event in allowing historians to study the detailed interaction of British and continental thinkers at a vital period in the emergence of an ‘Anglican’ identity.

About the Author

Dr Anthony Milton is Reader in History at the University of Sheffield. For more info click here

To order from click here

The Canons of Dort

March 21, 2011

Council of the National Synod of the Reformed Church. Remontrants sit at the table.

The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands is popularly known as the Canons of Dort. It consists of statements of doctrine adopted by the great Synod of Dort which met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. Although this was a national synod of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, it had an international character, since it was composed not only of Dutch delegates but also of twenty-six delegates from eight foreign countries.

The Synod of Dort was held in order to settle a serious controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. Jacob Arminius, a theological professor at Leiden University, questioned the teaching of Calvin and his followers on a number of important points. After Arminius’s death, his own followers presented their views on five of these points in the Remonstrance of 1610. In this document or in later more explicit writings, the Arminians taught election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. In the Canons the Synod of Dort rejected these views and set forth the Reformed doctrine on these points, namely, unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of saints.

The Canons have a special character because of their original purpose as a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute during the Arminian controversy. The original preface called them a “judgment, in which both the true view, agreeing with God’s Word, concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine is explained, and the false view, disagreeing with God’s Word, is rejected.” The Canons also have a limited character in that they do not cover the whole range of doctrine, but focus on the five points of doctrine in dispute.

Each of the main points consists of a positive and a negative part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter a repudiation of the corresponding errors. Each of the errors being rejected is shaded in gray. Although in form there are only four points, we speak properly of five points, because the Canons were structured to correspond to the five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. Main Points 3 and 4 were combined into one, always designated as Main Point III/IV.

This translation of the Canons, based on the only extant Latin manuscript among those signed at the Synod of Dort, was adopted by the 1986 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. The biblical quotations are translations from the original Latin and so do not always correspond to current versions. Though not in the original text, subheadings have been added to the positive articles and to the conclusion in order to facilitate study of the Canons.

© 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

The Arminian Controversy and the Synod of Dort

March 20, 2011

By S. Vandergugten

Why on earth should we get excited about the Synod of Dort – something which happened 370 years ago? What does the Arminian Controversy have to do with us? Do we really have to know anything about these theological and doctrinal contentions that disrupted the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands so long ago? My answer would be an emphatical yes!

We should get excited about church history because we should be vitally interested in Christ’s church-gathering work throughout the ages. Understanding church history will enable us to understand the religious issues of today. In particular, understanding the Arminian Controversy of the 1600s will make clear to us that many, if not most, North American churches trace their origins to this time in history. Understanding what the Synod decided will make us realize that in these Canons we have one of the most authoritative and valuable expositions of Calvinistic theology – a confession and valuable tool to refute the errors of Arminianism also today.

In the early years of the 17th century, the Arminian Controversy shook the Reformed Churches of the United Provinces. The nature of the debate was purely theological, but, because in those days the Church and State were so intimately connected, the controversy was soon entangled in the political issues of the day. The conflict shook the whole country.

How did the state become involved in the church’s theological debates? What was the controversy all about? What theological issues were at stake? What did the Synod of Dort decide about the teachings of Arminius and his followers? Read more»

History of the Reformed Church of Hungary

March 18, 2011

History of the Reformed Church of Hungary by Ferencz Balogh – read online

The Hungarian Reformation

March 17, 2011

Used with permission

By Chris Richards

…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. (2 Cor 11:23 KJV)

With the rise of Islam very much in the news, the history of the Reformation in Hungary makes an interesting study. The Church there not only had to contend for the faith against Roman Catholicism but also against the Islamic Turks who invaded Hungarian territory. The Christian can learn much from the history of the Church in Hungary. For the greater part of its existence it has been oppressed and persecuted. Rome, Islam, or Communist persecutions have never totally destroyed Gospel witness in Hungary.

It is also fitting that the Reformation story be retold in this year of 2006, as this year marks special anniversaries for Stephen Bocskay, sometimes known as the Hungarian Oliver Cromwell. Bocskay was born in 1556 and died by poisoning in 1606. He is commemorated on the International Reformation Monument in Geneva, towards the erection of which the Hungarian Reformed Church contributed one of the largest sums of money. Only the Church of Scotland contributed more. Despite the Reformed Church of Hungary claiming over two million adherents, Hungary is often regarded as a wholly Roman Catholic country.

The Early Days

The Gospel was planted among the Magyar peoples who settled in Hungary from Asia by Cyrillus. The rise of the Papacy affected Hungary as it did in all other places where Rome usurped local churches. By the time of the Reformation, Hungary had 150 so-called Holy Places. “Miracles” were commonplace yet the morality of the country was very low.

The preaching of John Huss in Prague affected many students from Hungary who were studying at Prague University. However, it was not until a century later that the populace were reached with the Gospel. Luther’s protest against the sale of indulgences in 1517 opened the way for the Hungarian Reformation. Many Germans had settled in Hungary. This German influence led to Luther’s writings being circulated. By 1600 it is believed that 60% of the population was Protestant.

Queen Mary, a very influential member of the Royal Family, was won over to the Reformation. She used her influence to protect Protestant preachers, especially John Henkel. From 1523 Reformed Truth had been taught at the Academy of Ofen in Budapest. In Transylvania (then part of Hungary) the Reformers were zealous in catechizing the people. This led to the populace mocking and ridiculing the superstitious beliefs of the Roman priests.

Rome Thwarted

The Roman Bishops demanded that Queen Mary’s husband, King Louis II, move against the Reformers. All Lutheran books were ordered to be burnt and all property owned by Lutherans was to be confiscated. Some books were burnt, but before the persecution could take hold an Islamic army threatened invasion. Soliman the Magnificent with an army of 300,000 men marched on Hungary. All the troops Louis could muster were 27,000. These were quickly defeated by Soliman. The King, in making his escape, suffered a riding accident which killed him.

The invasion by the Turks resulted in 200,000 Hungarians being massacred. Two claimants put themselves forward as the rightful king, John Zapolya and Ferdinand of Austria. This division led to civil war and was accompanied by Soliman’s occasional attacks. This unrest left the Reformers unhindered. Nobles and two Bishops embraced the Reformation.

In 1537 Matthias Devay began a powerful ministry in Budapest, and Ferdinand was presented with a copy of the Augsberg Confession. Budapest was under Zapolya’s authority. Influenced by Roman priests, Zapolya had Devay imprisoned. Also in the prison was Zapolya’s blacksmith and Devay witnessed to the smith. Zapolya ordered the blacksmith’s release. He, though, said he would not leave prison without Devay, whereupon Zapolya ordered his release too. Devay left the country, visiting Wittenburg in Germany and Basle in Switzerland, where he acquainted himself with printing practice. In 1537 he returned to Hungary and set up a press. On this was printed the first book in the Hungarian Language.

Reluctantly, Ferdinand agreed to move against the Reformers. Devay and an evangelist, Stephen Szantai, were denounced but not imprisoned. Ferdinand arranged for a debate between Szantai and a Romanist theologian named Gregory. The judges of the debate came to Ferdinand explaining that they were in a dilemma. Szantai could prove his doctrine by Scripture; Gregory could not. Yet if they found Szantai the victor they would be guilty of heresy.

The King now found himself in the same dilemma. He spoke with Szantai. Rome demanded that the King have Szantai burned. Instead, he made provision for the would-be martyr to leave his territory.

Reformation Complete

In Hungary there was no sudden fall of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather a gradual weakening of its support. The great progress of the Reformation came from three sources-the evident superior teaching of the Reformation so clearly seen in the Szantai-Gregory debate; the publishing of the Hungarian New Testament in 1541; and the reluctance of the claimants to the Kingdom to offend the Protestant nobility by persecution.

Young men studied theology in Wittenburg and Geneva. On their return they took up evangelical ministries. On John Zapolya’s death, his infant son was proclaimed his successor. His mother invited Soliman to become the child’s protector. The army of Soliman entering the Kingdom led to many fleeing before it, including many Reformed preachers. When things settled down these returned, the Turks allowing them to preach unhindered. By 1554 Transylvania was almost entirely Protestant. The last priest left the city of Huns as the place was without a single Roman Catholic. Count Petrovich undertook, as Regent to the infant King, a political reformation. Metal idols were melted down, monasteries turned into schools and the Church lost all political patronage.

Troubles Within

Unfortunately a difference arose within the Church that would lead to a split. The trouble arose over the Lord’s Table. Ministers who studied in Wittenburg followed Luther’s teaching while others followed Calvin’s teaching. In 1545 and 1546 two confessions were published, one from each camp. At this time separation was not practiced by either side. The publishing of these Confessions, however, did lead to the Hungarian church organizing itself and not relying on German help. It also completely broke off ecclesiastical contact with local Roman Catholic Bishops.

Romanists tried to bribe the Turks to kill Protestants. However, as Protestant meeting houses had no idols, which the Turks abhorred, they refused. The Pashas ordered that no hindrance should be put in the way of those who preached the faith of the “Great Mufti of Wittenberg”! A change of Regent could have caused the Reformers many problems. However, the enemy of the Reformation, Losonezy, was killed in battle against the Turks.

The differences between the two Protestant groupings remained even during the fierce persecutions which were to follow. Publications and counter-publication from both sides vied with one another. Pronouncements from both sides precluded any coming together.

Stephen Bocskay

The claim of Ferdinand passed eventually to Rudolph II. He had no interest in Reformed teaching, being more concerned with astrology and alchemy. His lack of concern at the treatment of his Protestant subjects, now confronted by a Jesuit led counter-reformation, led to an uprising. The Protestants of Holland had risen against the persecuting Hapsburg emperors of the Holy Roman Empire who ruled them. The Hungarian Protestants, facing similar despotic rule and active persecution, sought to defend themselves. Their captain was Stephen Bocskay who was elected to lead the Protestant forces, called hadjous. Rudolph refused the Protestants’ call for religious freedom and was determined to destroy any attempt to secure this. Bocskay led his hadjous to victory and was urged to accept the title Prince of Hungary. He would not accept this claim to the Kingdom. He did however accept the simple title of Prince of Siebenburgen.

Bocskay Victories

Bocskay victories over the Hapsburg Rudolph called for great military skill. Not only did Bocskay have to face Romanist forces but also to keep a watchful eye on the Turks, who were always looking for an opportunity to invade. The victories over Rudolph forced him to sign a treaty called the Peace of Vienna. This gave rights to all citizens to practice their faith without state interference. The Peace of Vienna was accepted by the hadjous at the Diet (legislative assembly) at Kassa. During the Diet, Bocskay was poisoned, probably by a false friend, the Chancellor Katay. Bocskay died on 29th December 1606. On his death the outraged hadjous put Katay to death.

The death of Bocskay was a great setback for the Protestant cause. The provisions of the Peace of Vienna proved short-lived and a fearful persecution came on the Church once again.

The Fall of the Hapsburgs

In 1616 Ferdinand II came to the Throne. He repudiated the Peace of Vienna. The Jesuits set up courts of Inquisition. Pastors and Protestant nobility were hung and villages forcibly made to accept Roman Catholicism. Again the Protestants were driven to take up arms to defend themselves. Again the Protestants had a great military leader, Gabriel Bethlen. Three times he secured promises of peace from the Romanist Ferdinand only to see the Treaty broken once the Protestant forces dispersed.

Bethlen never seemed to realize that Rome could not be trusted. The last Treaty Bethlen secured by arms from the Hapsburgs also gave an undertaking by Bethlen never to take up arms again. Although Bethlen kept his part of the bargain, Rome did not keep her side. Like Bocskay, Bethlen was poisoned by Romanist doctors. During this time 100,000 were forcibly “converted to Rome.” The country was depopulated through martyrdom and Protestants fleeing.

Ferdinand II was followed by a succession of persecuting monarchs. Just as many came to view the French Revolution as God’s judgment on the persecuting Romanist French Royal family, so, when in 1866 defeated Austria fell from the front rank of nations, this was viewed in the same light. Another fifty years on from this the Hapsburg Empire collapsed in the First World War. Protestants called the House of Austria the House of Ahab. The Protestants of Hungary adopted a policy of passive resistance. Pastors sent to row in the galleys were freed by Dutch men-of-war, who hearing of the punishment given to the Hungarian pastors, made it their business to board the Hapsburg vessels and free the pastors. Finally, as revolution threatened the Romanist despots of Europe during the 18th Century, religious toleration was granted. The Act of Toleration of 1781 was superseded in 1848 by the guarantee of complete religious liberty.

The Hapsburg Empire went into history at the end of World War 1.

The Church remained, having withstood both Rome and Islam!

This article was written in:
The Reformer
July/August 2006 Edition

Published by:
The Protestant Alliance
77 Ampthill Road
Flitwick, Bedford MK45 1BD

The Protestant Reformation

March 16, 2011

The Protestant Reformation – Part 1:

The Protestant Reformation – Part 2: