Thirty-Nine articles of Religion. Text of the articles (with
a modern rendering) and links to other information on each article.
37-39: Church and State
32-36 (previous page)
37 The state and its civil representatives.
38 The possessions of Christians are not common to all
39 A Christian's oath
also Donald Allister's Cross†Way article on Articles 37-39)
Of the Civil Magistrates.
The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England,
and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all
estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil,
in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject
to any foreign Jurisdiction.
Where we attribute to the King's Majesty the chief government,
by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks
to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either
of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions
also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify;
but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always
to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is,
that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their
charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and
restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.
The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for
heinous and grievous offences.
It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate,
to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
37 The state and its civil
The sovereign has the chief power in the realm of England and
his other possessions. The supreme government of all in this realm,
whatever their station, whether ecclesiastical and civil, and
in all matters, belongs to him and is not, nor ought to be, subject
to any foreign jurisdiction. When we attribute to the sovereign
the chief government (a title which seems to have offended some
slanderous persons) we do not grant our rulers the ministry of
either God's Word or of the sacraments. This is also made clear
in the Injunctions published by Queen Elizabeth I. By this title
we acknowledge only the prerogative which we see in holy Scripture
God has given to all godly rulers. They should rule all people
committed to their charge by God, whatever their station or rank,
whether ecclesiastical or secular, and restrain with the civil
power those who are stubborn or practise evil.
The bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
The laws of the realm may punish Christian people with death for
heinous and grave offences.
It is lawful for Christian men at the command of the state to
carry weapons and serve in wars.
Christian men's Goods, which are not common.
The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching
the right, title, and possession of the same as certain Anabaptists
do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things
as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according
to his ability.
38 The possessions of Christians
are not common to all
Contrary to what some Anabaptists claim, the wealth and possessions
of Christians are not common, as far as the right, title and possession
of them is concerned. Nevertheless, everyone ought to give freely
to the poor from what he possesses, according to his means.
a Christian man's Oath.
As we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian
men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge,
that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may
swear when the Magistrate
requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according
to the Prophet's teaching, in justice, judgement, and truth.
39 A Christian's oath
We believe that the vain and rash swearing of oaths is forbidden
to Christians by our Lord Jesus Christ and St James. However,
we judge that the Christian faith does not prohibit the swearing
of an oath when the state requires it, if in a cause where faithfulness
and love justify it, and according to the prophet Jeremiah's teaching,
in justice, judgment and truth.
See also the Homily
against Swearing and Perjury (Homily 7)