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The Forty-two and Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church

The 39 Articles form the basic summary of belief of the Church of England. They were drawn up by the Church in convocation in 1563 on the basis of the 42 Articles of 1553. Clergymen were ordered to subscribe to the 39 Articles by Act of Parliament in 1571. As part of the via media of Elizabeth I, the Articles were deliberately latitudinarian but were not intended to provide a dogmatic definition of faith. It is clear that they are phrased very loosely to allow for a variety of interpretations. The Church of England still requires its ministers publicly to assert their belief in these Articles.

The articles were based on the work of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1533-1556). Cranmer and his colleagues prepared several statements of faith during the reign of Henry VIII but it was not until the reign of Edward VI that the ecclesiastical reformers were able to make more thorough changes. Shortly before Edward's death, Cranmer presented a doctrinal statement consisting of forty-two points: this was the last of his major contributions to the development of Anglicanism.

Mary Tudor suppressed the 42 Articles when she returned England to the Catholic faith; however, Cranmer's work became the source of the 39 Articles which Elizabeth I established as the doctrinal foundations of the Church of England. There are two editions of the 39 Articles: those of 1563 are in Latin and those of 1571 are in English.

The 39 Articles repudiate teachings and practices that Protestants in general condemned in the Catholic church. For example, they deny the teachings concerning Transubstantiation (XXVIII), the sacrifice of the Mass (XXXI), and the sinlessness of Our Lady (XV). However, they affirm that Scripture is the final authority on salvation (VI), Adam's fall compromised human free will (X), both bread and wine should be served to all in the Lord's Supper (XXX), and that ministers may marry (XXXII).

The difference of the two series, and their relation to the Thirteen Articles, will be seen from the following table:

Thirteen Articles. 1538
Forty-two Articles. 1553
Thirty-nine Articles. 1571
1. De Unitate Dei et Trinitate Personarum. 1. Of faith in the holie Trinitie. 1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
2. De Peccato Originali. 2. That the worde, or Sonne of God, was made a very man 2. Of Christ the Son of God, which was made very man.
3. De duabus Christi Naturis. 3. Of the goying doune of Christe into Helle. 3. Of the Going down of Christ into Hell.
4. De Justificatione. 4. The Resurrection of Christe. 4. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
5. De Ecclesia. 5. The doctrine of holie Scripture is sufficient to Saluation. 5. Of the Holy Ghost.
6. De Baptismo. 6. The olde Testamente is not to be refused. 6. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation.
7. De Eucharistia. 7. The three Credes. 7. Of the Old Testament.
8. De Pœnitentia. 8. Of originall or birthe sinne. 8. Of the Three Creeds.
9. De Sacramentorum Usu. 9. Of free wille. 9. Of Original or Birth Sin.
10. De Ministris Ecclesiæ. 10. Of Grace. 10. Of Free Will.
11. De Ritibus Ecclesiasticis. 11. Of the Justification of manne. 11. Of the Justification of man.
12. De Rebus Civilibus. 12. Workes before Justification. 12. Of Good Works.
13. De Corporum Resurrectione et Judicio Extremo. 13. Workes of Supererogation. 13. Of Works before Justification.
  14. No man is without sinne, but Christe alone. 14. Of Works of Supererogation.
[This order follows, as far as it goes, the order of the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession.] 15. Of sinne against the holie Ghoste. 15. Of Christ alone without sin.
  16. Blasphemie against the holie Ghoste. 16. Of Sin after Baptism.
  17. Of predestination and election. 17. Of Predestination and Election.
  18. We must truste to obteine eternal salvation onely by the name of Christ. 18. Of obtaining Salvation by the name of Christ.
  19. All men are bound to kepe the moral commaundementes of the Lawe. 19. Of the Church.
  20. Of the Church. 20. Of the Authority of the Church.
  21. Of the aucthoritie of the Churche. 21. Of the Authority of General Councils.
  22. Of the authoritie of General Counsailes. 22. Of Purgatory.
  23. Of Purgatorie. 23. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
  24. No manne maie minister in the Congregation except he be called. 24. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth.
  25. Menne must speake in the Congregation in soche toung as the people understandeth. 25. Of the Sacraments.
  26. Of the Sacramentes. 26. Of the Unworthiness of Ministers which hinder not the effect of the Sacraments.
  27. The wickednesse of the Ministres dooeth not take awaie the effectuall operation of Goddes ordinances 27. Of Baptism.
  28. Of Baptisme. 28. Of the Lord's Supper.
  29. Of the Lordes Supper. 29. Of the Wicked which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.
  30. Of the perfeicte oblacion of Christe made upon the crosse. 30. Of Both Kinds.
  31. The state of single life is commaunded to no man by the worde of God. 31. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the cross.
  32. Excommunicate persones are to bee auoided. 32. Of the Marriage of Priests,
  33. Tradicions of the Churche. 33. Of Excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.
  34. Homelies. 34. Of the Traditions of the Church.
  35. Of the booke of Praiers and Ceremonies of the Churche of England. 35. Of Homilies.
  36. Of Ciuile Magistrates. 36. Of Consecrating of Bishops and Ministers.
  37. Christien mennes gooddes are not commune. 37. Of Civil Magistrates.
  38. Christien menne maie take an oath. 38. Of Christian men's goods, which are not common.
  39. The Resurrection of the dead is not yeat brought to passe. 39. Of a Christian man's oath.
  40. The soulles of them that departe this life doe neither die with the bodies nor sleep idlie.  
  41. Heretickes called Millenarii. The Ratification.
  42. All men shall not bee saved at the length.  

The Edwardine Articles are essentially the same as the Thirty-nine, with the exception of a few (three of them borrowed from the Augsburg Confession), which were omitted in the Elizabethan revision—namely, one on the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Art. XVI.); one on the obligation of keeping the moral commandments—against antinomianism—(XIX.); one on the resurrection of the dead (XXXIX.); one on the state of the soul after death—against the Anabaptist notion of the psychopannychia—(XL.); one against the millenarians (XLI.); and one against the doctrine of universal salvation (XLII.). A clause in the article on Christ's descent into Hades (Art. III.), and a strong protest against the ubiquity of Christ's body, and 'the real and bodily presence of Christ's flesh and blood in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper' (in Art. XXIX.), were likewise omitted. ( See HERE)


This table was taken from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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