Friday, January 28, 2011

What Is Protestantism?

The Ritualists to which the Rev. T. H. Sparshott refers to in this tract is a part of the Romeward Movement that emerged in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. The Romeward Movement sought to reunite the Church of England with the Church of Rome. To that end the Ritualists sought to introduce into the Anglican Church the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The thinking was that if they made the Anglican Church like the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope would accept the Church of England back into the Roman fold.

Their efforts to change the character of the Church of England naturally would engender resistance from churchmen who did not share their aspirations. Among these churchmen were Protestant High Churchmen as well as Evangelicals. The Church Association was formed to combat this development and to uphold the Protestant and Reformed character of the Church of England.

In the twenty-first century the Romeward Movement has borne fruit in the form of Anglicanorum coetibus and the Personal Ordinariates of Pope Benedict XVI. The Romeward Movement failed to attain its goal of so transforming the Church of England that the Church of England would be acceptable to the Pope. But it has left its mark on the modern-day Anglican Church. It has created within the Church of England and her daughter churches pockets of Christians who are Anglican in name but Roman Catholic in doctrine and practice.

In the United States Anglicans and Episcopalians are, due to the influence of the Romeward Movement, more familiar with the Tracts for the Times than the Church Association Tracts that were written to counter the stream of propaganda that the Ritualists produced in support of their introduction of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice into the Church of England in defiance of English ecclesiastical law. The Heritage Anglican Network will be publishing the Church Association Tracts, which provide us with a window into this critical phase in English Church history and are a reminder of the Protestant and Reformed character of historical Anglicanism.

Church Association Tract 273

Clerical Organizing Secretary of the Church Association

The statement that Protestantism is only a system of negation, has been so often repeated by Ritualists, that many believe that it is true, and yet nothing could be farther from truth. The word Protestantism means witnessing for or in behalf of something. The famous Protest issued from the Second Diet of Spires, 1529, was a witness for the sufficiency of Holy Scripture for salvation, the right of every man to study the Bible for himself, and to teach its precious truths to his children.

Protestantism is then—

A WITNESS that Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.

A PROTEST that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed, as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

A WITNESS for the whole truth of God, as set forth in His Word.

A PROTEST against all the dogmas of Rome and Ritualism, which are founded upon other authority, whether that authority be called, “The Fathers,” “Catholic Antiquity,” “The Church,” or “Tradition.”

A WITNESS for the Sovereign Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A PROTEST against every form of priestcraft, which comes between the sinner and the Saviour.

A WITNESS for the one sacrifice of Christ, offered once for all.

A PROTEST against the Mass, the supposed continued presentation of that sacrifice in heaven, or any repetition or re-presentation, of that sacrifice in the Eucharist.

A WITNESS for the doctrine of justification by faith only, through the free grace of God.

A PROTEST against the opus operatum theory of baptismal regeneration, or baptismal justification, or any supposed merit in good works, or free will, to help forward the salvation of the soul.

A WITNESS for the right of every believer to come boldly to the throne of grace, in the name of Jesus.

A PROTEST against the need of any confessor, between the conscience and Christ.

A WITNESS for the holy Catholic Church, as consisting of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, of every generation, of every name, of every nation, people, kindred and tongue.

A PROTEST against the pretensions of Rome and Ritualism to be “Catholic,” whereas their distinguishing dogmas were unknown in the days of the Apostles, or in the early centuries of the Christian Church.

This Protestantism has been the secret of all civil, social, and religious liberty to our own, or any other country where it has been established. Greatness, glory and liberty are the fruits of National Protestantism—while decrepitude, decay, degradation and bondage have been the fruits of every rejection of Protestantism.

The source for this tract is the Church Society, which exists to uphold biblical teaching and to promote and defend the character of the Church of England as a reformed and national Church. The Society is strongly committed to the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God's Word written.

The Society works through publishing, supporting churches, campaigning and the administration of charitable trusts and properties.

Church Society's ongoing publications are the theological journal Churchman, members' magazine Cross†Way and online news service EVNews, Church Society Trust, holds patronage rights to 113 parishes and acts as proprietor for four chapels.

The Society is a voluntary association of members of the Church of England, and others, who pray for the work, support it financially and many of whom are actively involved in various areas of the work.