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 The Principles of Theology - Articles 9-18

by W.H.Griffith Thomas

III. THE LIFE OF FAITH (Introduction to Articles 9-18)

Articles 9-18: Personal Religion

A. Its Commencement (Articles 9-14)

Doctrines connected with Justification

9. Original Or Birth-Sin
10. Free-Will
11. The Justification Of Man
12. Good Works
13. Works Before Justification
14. Works of Supererogation

At this point a long group of Articles commences, extending from 9 to 18, wholly different from those preceding it, being concerned with personal religion, not with the verities or the Rule of Faith. The one topic is the application of truths to personal life. The group has also a historical significance, for it declares the Anglican position in relation to the great Continental sections of the Reformation movement, the Lutheran or German on the one side, and the Swiss and French on the other, first under Zwingli and then under Calvin. Of the first division the watchword was Justification by Faith; of the second, Predestination and Election. Our position, while insular, was not isolated, because insularity was impossible, since Continental thought necessarily affected ours and compelled us to define our position. This group may therefore be divided into two smaller groups. The first extends from 9 to 14, and is associated with Article 11 on Justification. This, which forms a compact group, was of very great importance in the sixteenth century, because the Reformation was beyond all else an assertion of personal religion and of the attitude of the soul to God. The subjects of these Articles were in everyone’s mouth, and the Council of Trent had to give as much care to them as we had to our Articles. It is significant that the first Article of the Augsburg Confession on the Holy Trinity was immediately followed by one on Original Sin. On this the Reformation primarily turned. The Reformers said, as Bradwardine (1290-1349) Archbishop of Canterbury had said three centuries before, that the Roman Church was essentially Pelagian. In regard to purely controversial questions the prominence of this group is perhaps no longer important either inside or outside the Church, for outside the Church the battle is concerned with the first and second groups of Articles on first principles, while inside controversy has shifted to the fourth group on the Church and Sacraments. But while from the purely historical and theological standpoints the importance of this group has either passed away or become considerably less, yet spiritually and pastorally it is of permanent truth and value. The controversy is not and can never be extinct, for the principles are eternal.

The topics and relationships of these Articles should be noted. Articles 9 and 10 deal with the actual condition of man in two respects: his original sin, carrying with it the need of atonement (Article 9); and his freedom of will, emphasising the need of grace (Article 10). These are prefatory. Then comes Article 11 on Justification, declaring what God does for us and how His work in Christ is received. The three following Articles show our fellow-working with God: Article 12 declares our fellow-working as it ought to be, showing the value of works when put in their proper place; Articles 13 and 14 show the perversion of works, the one seeking to make us independent of God, showing the worthlessness of works when put in the wrong place; and the other, dealing with a view which was alleged to provide beyond God’s requirements, is a link of connection between the two groups, having points of contact with Justification and Sanctification, showing that no Christian can attain to God’s requirements. We can, therefore, see the coherence of this first group, though the second, while somewhat looser, is still in a measure coherent. They are not quite so compact, but may be associated with the Christian life, and in particular with Article 17. Article 15 shows that no Christian can fully attain to God’s requirements; Article 16 that none need despair of restoration should he fall; Article 16 denies the possibility of a hell upon earth, as Article 15 denied the possibility of a heaven upon earth; and then Article 17 is a goal, of which the earlier Articles were the commencement. Article 18 appropriately closes the group with a warning against that spirit of indifference which holds that true faith does not matter.


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Article 9

>> Introduction

>> The Meaning of Original Sin

>> The Extent of Original Sin

>> The Result of Original Sin

>> The Condemnation of Original Sin

>> The Permanence of Original Sin

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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