An earlier post on Necessary Doctrine made some general statements about Henrican theology. I’d like to recap two points. First, the early date of clerical subscription was as early as 1536, followed by the Catechism in 1538. The intent of catechism, bible, and articles teaching together was a continuous feature of Settlement, beginning with Henry. Second, Henry’s theology, even in the mid-1530’s, was ‘reformed’ (Augustinian). The Henrican view of God’s grace began to theologically impact Worship, first, with respect to saints and, by Edward’s reign, vulgarities in the Mass. Henrican Catechisms and Articles were not merely ‘negative statements’ but were tied to matters of ceremony, each connected to the same doctrine of salvation. In this respect, Henrican theology offers a system of thinking, centered on the idea of ‘justification’. A high treatment of grace does not downplay sacrament but extols dependence on the very means instituted by Him.
Insufficiency of Man’s Will:
Anglicanism was careful not to depart from antique teaching. Henry, no less than Elizabethan Articles, refuted Calvin’s ‘irresistible grace’. Anglicanism indeed taught man might resist grace (article 16). That being said, it is also true by Anglican theology that man is not saved by ‘freewill alone’ (sola arbitrium). Man has an inability to turn to God unless working with grace. A preventing grace is thus required to free man’s will from original corruption, so man might then desire God’s generous help and benefit. The thirty-nine articles plainly say regarding this ”preventing’ grace:
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will. (Article 10)
Necessary Doctrine is of the same accord. While Henry defines freewill as “a certain power of will joined with reason whereby a reasonable creature, without constraint in things of reason, discerneth and willeth good and evil”. Freewill, here, is being being spoken in terms of its facticity. It remains a positive reality even if its power is diminished– like the existence of the sun on a cloudy day– and despite the Fall it remains active. Yet sin taints the working of Reason and Will, infecting both in such a way that these powers are in a decayed or injured state. Though not depraved by absolute degree (mankind may still render righteous civil works), the post-lapsarian situation of man has run upon the rock of Scylla, unable to approach the shore of the highest good, namely the true worship and joy of God (Rom. 1:20-23). Therefore, man’s guilt continues, his wickedness not forced from outside by an ‘evil divinty’ but springing from within his own heart which both commits sin and is the cause of sin. The 1543 Catechism says throughout:
“the high power of man’s reason and freedom of will were wounded and corrupted, and all men thereby brought into such blindness and infirmity, that they cannot eschew sin, except they be illumned and made free to espeical grace, that is to say, by a supernatural help and working of the Holy Ghost” (p. 360)
“…while a certain freedom of will in those things which do pertain to the desires and works of this present life, yet to perform spiritual and heavenly things, freewill of itself is insufficient” (p. 360)
“We conclude that freewill is in man after his fall; which thing whoso denieth is not a catholic man: but in spiritual desires and works to please God, it is so weak and feeble, that it cannot either begin or perform them, unless by the grace and help of God it prevented and helpen” (p. 361)
“…it followeth, that freewill, before it may will or think any godly thing, must be holpen by the grace of Christ, and by his Spirit be prevented and inspired, that it may be able thereto: and being so made able, may from thenceforth work together with grace” (p. 361)
Thus, a preventing grace not fully dependent upon man is necessary. It is that first justification/grace which inclines man to choose life contrary to sin whereupon both Reason and Will are renewed for the purposes of cooperation, not enemity, with God, “It is surely the grace of God only that first we be inspired and moved to any good thing: but to resist temptations, and to persist in goodness and go forward, it is both of the grace of God and of our freewill to endeavor” (p. 362).
The Henrican catechism suggests this first justification establishes a ‘Higher’ Reason, making a greater liberty possible. This explains the priority both Hooker and 18th century divines (like William Law) gives Reason. Upon preventing grace Reason finds new/higher power, giving deliberation greater clarity and light so men know solace and truth in what God offers, being inclined choice yet not overpowered. The increased power of Reason and Will is what is meant by this ‘assistance’. But, while preventing Grace is the first cause of justification, it remains man’s liberty to finally choose what has been better given/revealed. The 1543 Article of Justification says,
“albeit God is the principal cause and chief worker of this justification in us, without whose grace no man can do no good thing, but following his freewill in the state of a sinner, increaseth his own injustice, and mulitplieth his sin; yet so it pleaseth the high wisdom of God, that man, prevented by his grace, (which being offered, man may if he will refuse or receive,) shall be also a worker by his free consent and obedience to the same, in the attaining of his own justification, and by God’s grace and help shall walk” (p.365)
The inability of man to work out his salvation alone, though he might refuse it, mandates the sacramental life. Henry VIII reminds backsliding Christians when they fail by their own infirmities (as they often do), to seek Christ where His pledge is found, “And when they do feel nothwithstanding their diligence, yet through their own infirmity they be not able to do that they desire, then they ought earnestly, and with a fervant devotion and steadfast faith, to ask of him, which gave the beginning, that he would vouchsafe to perform it: which thing God will undoubtedly grant, according to his promise, to such as persevere in calling upon him” (p. 362).
The ‘beginning’ is not the secret will of God. We have no sure comfort there. It is the sacraments whereby we first come into God’s House. In the Article on Justification Henry advises the manner men ought to recover ‘their estate of justification’ if they continue to sin, “to arise by penance, wherein proceeding in sorrow and much lameentation for our sins, with fasting, alms, prayer, adn doing all such things, at the least in true purpose and will, as God requireth of us, we must have a sure trust and confidence in the mercy of God” (p. 366).
The mercy of God is not evidently found in predestination, but penance whereby we return to the nourishment of Christ. Christ knows our frailties (even the incompleteness of Reason) and so provides visible and audible signs of Himself for our peace. We find these in the sacraments and ministry of the Church where the promise of forgiveness explicitly offered.
While freewill corrects the ‘enormities’ of “irresistible grace”, the other extreme– man’s will alone (“sola arbitrium”)– is equally resisted. If man was capable of desiring Christ without assistance, glory would be given to fallen nature not heaven. And where does fallen man find the heavenly Lord except through the church? It is the church which Christ speaks and acts through by which He shows His death and life. Without preventing grace man might rely upon natural strength, aka. ”spiritualism”, rather than religion or ecclesiology. Augustine, therefore, offers a rather indispensable view of the ‘church’, basing it on justification, explaining why men turn, need, and depend upon God’s graces within sacraments rather than lonely cells. Augustine was the theologian of the cathedral while Cassian gave logic to the ordeal of the cenobium. The insufficiency of the Will requires men to seek assistance in the sacraments which is where the Promise is made visible. Grace and sacrament is therefore bound together, and not torn apart unless men seek confidence in something other than the ‘signs’ instituted by Christ. The Henrican catechism finishes the Article on Freewill warning clergy,
“All men be admonished and chiefly preachers, that this high matter they be looking on both sides, so attemper and moderate themselves, that neither they so preach the grace of God, that they take away thereby free will, nor on the other side so extol freewill, that injury be done to the grace of God” (p. 363)
There was once a time Anglicanism was certain of itself. Today it is too rare to hear doctrines of grace proclaimed like Hooker who said of England’s theology, the CofE possessed the surest, safest, and most perfect means for salvation. Henrican catechisms do not shy from the same exceptionalism, “this book containeth a perfect and sufficient doctrine…a declaration of true knowledge… a true exposition of the scriptures and true doctrine…a true understanding of that which is necessary for every Christian man to know, for the ordering of himself and his life” (pp. 216, 218), etc.
What do Anglo-Catholics today consider most ‘distinctive’ contra Rome? Is it, for example, language or jurisdiction– sic., “english-speaking lands”? Anglicana‘s wonder was not style but the content of instruction and preaching. Anglicanism once boasted the surest catholic system of theology, learnedness, and ministry since apostolic times. It was greater than both Rome and Constantinople. Original sin, Freewill, and God’s grace joyously rung from the halls of England, pouring forth upon colonies and ‘english speaking’ lands. Her doctrine is not reduced to style but indeed offered the purest and most certain way of salvation.
Anyway, with regard to Elizabethan theology, as it is found in the 1562 Articles, it is not a distant faith but reiteration of the basic tenets of Henry. Henry is not ‘counter-reformation’ or a ‘retraction’ with respect to Anglicana‘s own (Vincentian) development of doctrine. There is a rejection of supererogation, merit, and congruity before justification. A rather high grace view. Yet predestination is avoided and grace treated synergestically. Augustinian and Aquianus notions of first cause are kept. We might wonder if the Settlement’s formative period was indeed Henry’s life, dating back to the 1530’s, rather than Edward’s reign or the return of the exiles after Mary’s betrothal?