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By Roger Salter
February 23, 2017

The foundation of Anglicanism is thoroughly Scriptural. The heritage of Anglicanism is indisputably Reformational. The credal stance of Anglicanism is catholic, cleansed from the accretions of Papal error and medieval superstition. The tone of Anglicanism is attractively pastoral. Its overall aim is to forge a strong union of head and heart with the Lord Jesus Christ in the experience of each believing member. Its goal is to gather as many as possible, yet without faith, into a harmonious attachment to God. Its joy is to preach the gospel boldly and winsomely, and to worship and adore the Lord worthily with understanding and reverence. Its assignment is to minister the mercy of God in a fallen and frightening world to all people according to temporal and eternal need as much as opportunity and resources afford. Anglicanism in all its action exercises the agency of divine care, correction, and consolation. If deed in any way fails, as is often the case through human frailty, yet the desire to communicate blessing is always there. You cannot hold open the Book of Common Prayer without realizing that the intent of the true people of God is to hold him forth as wholly good and to do good for his glory.

Anglican piety and proclamation are sensitively geared to human welfare (transient body and eternal soul).

As was said of the noble and brave Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury Edmund Grindal, authentic Anglicanism is essentially Calvinism with a human face. It is modest before God and merciful to neighbor. Anglicanism exudes warmth. Anglicanism weeps over the misery of the world and works by the grace of God toward its wellbeing. Former Archbishop Rowan Williams detects a certain melancholy in Anglicanism and perhaps that can be attributed to the tragedy of our fall and the ensuing sadness and suffering of mankind through its breach with its Maker.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Third Collect at Evening Prayer is not only concerned with the darkness at the end of the day but so much more with the darkness, moral and spiritual, that thickly covers the world and in which evil wreaks its terrible harm with hellish effect. Souls are destroyed and doomed by the machinations of the devil and those who serve him. Only Christ can deliver from the darkness of this earthly night. He is the Bright and Morning Star that heralds the Day of Salvation (Revelation 22:16). Our great astronomical feat is to point to the Star.

In all problems and perplexities Anglicanism points to Christ and liturgically it marks and ministers to every significant point in human life from birth to death, cradle to coffin. Christ is the Companion of the pilgrim's progress.

Sympathy for fellow sinners in their plight is the hallmark of Anglican cure of the soul - issuing warning, sometimes stern, as to impending judgement that will shatter the night, and pronouncing the welcome of heaven for the penitent whose confidence is in Christ. We crave for every one the "inheritance of the saints in glory". God's eternal decree always stands, but we share the heartfelt sentiment of Charles Spurgeon: Lord, save the elect, and then elect some more. Our predestinarianism causes no alarm, for all who look to Christ for salvation will receive it. We gaze into the beautiful face of Christ for the assurance of divine mercy. We turn to his smile at the invitation of the gospel. To do so was Calvin's constant advice. Concern for our salvation was to Luther a sign of the Spirit's work within us. The counsel of our 17th Article alleviates all anxiety: "Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God."

Can any sincere seeker of God quarrel with that universal encouragement and exhortation? Only the fault in us excludes from salvation. The weak in faith must grasp that most precious and treasured statement in our liturgy derived from Scripture: Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - who desireth not the death of a sinner. When in anxiety it is our reminder and argument to set before the Lord; Lord, save this sinner. It is your preference. We are to be guided by pastoral direction and refrain from probing the divine decree. Obedience sorts out the friends of the gospel from its obdurate foes.

Anglicanism is benign because God's grace is bountiful. Its character is tender. Historically, its founders and best advocates were gentle; not feeble - but men of fellow-feeling and noble intent.

It is recorded that Thomas Cranmer used often to be found weeping at the sorrows of mankind. And the Archbishop's colleagues and contemporaries marveled at his mildness of demeanor, ready forgiveness of offenses, and defense of enemies: "The archbishop exhibited a remarkable forbearance towards intransigent Catholics; he hated the sin but loved the sinner. In fact he was frequently criticized by his friends for doing so; no less a person than Henry VIII lost his temper with Cranmer when he asked a favour for a Kentish gentleman who had just been one of the ringleaders in the conservative plot of 1543 to destroy the archbishop and all his evangelical associates." John Foxe the Protestant martyrologist observed, a little ruefully, concerning Cranmer that "he was altogether voide of the vice of stubbernesse, and rather culpable of over rmuche facilitie and gentlenesse (All Things Made New, Diarmaid MacCulloch Oxford, 2016, pages128 & 261). Our leaders in an age more harsh than our own were men of outstanding civility and patience.

Archbishop Edmund Grindal was a man of charitable and admirable character. "Grindal's inclination was always to hope for the best of mankind, not to suspect the worst. He had no taste for witch-hunts, no capacity for dirty tricks" (Archbishop Grindal, Patrick Collinson, University of California Press, 1979, page 127). Edmund Spenser celebrated Grindal as the gentle pastor Algrind in the Shepheardes Calender (July, line 126). Collinson honours "Algrind" with the accolade of representing "Calvinism with a human face" (page152).

One of greatest scholars of his day Archbishop Ussher seems to have replicated the modest and kindly nature of Cranmer. Forthrightly Augustinian as he was, Alan Ford can say of him, "Ussher inspired a genuine affection: enemies and allies alike spoke of his modesty, humility, gentleness . . . . His academic reputation, his mildness and gentleness of manner, the often oblique style of his writings, and his lack of overt political ambition helped create the image of the scholarly saint, and enabled him to say things in public which other ecclesiastics would have been afraid to utter" (James Ussher, Oxford, 2007, pages 4 & 8).Ussher's dating of creation at 4004BC, for which he is now smirkingly mocked, would not have stirred any dissent among the intelligentsia of his time and at that point of scientific theory as to origins.

One wonders if, in his recent novel The Rebels of Ireland, Edward Rutherfurd has created a possible caricature of James Ussher in his portrayal of a rather obnoxious figure named Simeon Pincher. Dr. Pincher has accepted a post at Trinity College, Dublin. He is both an accomplished theologian and preacher, but his manner is mean and severe. He entertains a superior attitude and hopes that he is not the least of God's chosen. A real problem emerges from the fact that Dr Pincher was a follower of Calvin, and his God, allegedly like the Reformer's, marked people out for hellfire. In actuality Ussher bore no resemblance to Pincher and any suggestion that he did would be extremely unfair to a man honoured in Ireland, England, and Europe for his conspicuous graciousness and godliness. The author's short cut to reprobation takes no account of the nuances of Reformational theology that define the prerogatives of distinguishing grace in relation to human depravity and hostility to God.

The inscription on the monument to the memory of Bishop John Davenant partly reads, "As a living example of venerated antiquity, he discharged all the duties of a primitive bishop; and thus during his twenty years of oversight of this diocese [Salisbury] he was honoured by all good men, and even by his enemies". Davenant's biographer avers, "Few men appear to have been more honoured and venerated by men of all parties than Bishop Davenant. In all the works of friends or opponents there is not to be found a single sentence approaching even to disrespect, much less anything that can tend to cast the slightest reflection upon his deportment in any measure of his public or private life. His profound learning, acuteness of intellect, Catholic spirit, active benevolence, and meekness, are constantly adverted to; and the phrases - "The good Bishop Davenant, the excellent Bishop Davenant, the learned Bishop Davenant, etc, etc, are the usual appendages, or ordinary epithets, to his name, even in the writings of those who took up the pen in express hostility to certain of his theological views." (Morris Joseph Fuller, B.D., The Letters and Writings of John Davenant D.D., Methuen & Co. London, 1897). It was this beloved Bishop who ordained George Hebert to the ministry in his parish of Bemerton with its view of the Cathedral spire.

Joseph Hall's enchanting spirituality and deep knowledge of Scripture is readily manifest in his enthralling Contemplations. The champion of the decisions of Dort was of the same stripe as Ussher and Davenant, humble and heroic in defense of the faith, patient in adversity. "When he had adventured in controversy, no other necessity was laid upon him than the love which he bore to truth, and concern at holding the best cause the worst supported. . . He fell upon a time when the Church of England contained many men whose genius and piety would have immortalized and sainted them in an earlier age (James Hamilton, Bishop Hall's Contemplations, Tentmaker Publications, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, UK, 2014, pages xxiv & xxviii - see www,tentmaker.org.uk or tentmakerpublications.com for the USA).

These illustrious saints, and many like them, edified and adorned the Reformed Church in England. Now there are scarcely any like them. Their kind were virtually eliminated from the scene by Laudian Arminianism with the collaboration Charles Stuart. With the Carolinian episode in the story of Anglicanism began the gradual reversion to Catholicism. The door of orthodoxy cannot be left ajar, as subsequent history has proven.

And now we have an Anglicanism that eagerly defies Biblical norms and hastens to depart from them. The latest betrayal of trustworthy Anglicanism has arrived with the Radical New Inclusion project commended by the primates of Canterbury and York - two bishops who ought to doff their miters, invert them, convert them into waste receptacles, and stuff them with the inane briefs they jointly produce.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church.

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