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By Roger Salter
November 12, 2018

The Church of England and its early colonial Anglican offspring owe an incalculable debt of gratitude and loyalty to many saintly figures of the past who labored strenuously in the truth and service of the Lord to make the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ known to the populous within their pastoral care and to foster the mutual indwelling of God Almighty and the recipients of divine grace (he in us and we in him). Anglicanism through its instruments of sound doctrine and reverent devotion was designed to accomplish a rich knowledge of God and a mature relationship with him.

Great servants of the Lord from within the Anglican fold - and beyond - expended much godly enthusiasm and effort in the construction of a Reformed and Protestant Church for England, Wales, and Ireland, the blessings of which were bequeathed to settlements abroad established by the crown through the extension of British exploration, colonialism and commercial enterprise. Whatever may be the perceived virtues or vices of empire, Providence certainly employed these imperial developments for the considerable enlargement of the kingdom of God throughout the world, the aspiration of much sincere and useful missionary outreach that still bears its fruit in numerous, and now independent, nations.

Anglicanism is conversionist in intent (evangelistic) and nurturing in practice, preaching and teaching the Word of God, and keenly pastoring those who respond to the influence of the Gospel. To save and secure the saints through the ministration of the means of grace (word sacrament and support) is its high and holy vocation, the call to proclaim the salvation of the Lord and pastor his people in wisdom and love. There is an air of sincere spiritual concern in the ideal functioning of Anglicanism inherited from the founders who provided such a method of soul care as is compiled in the various compartments of the Book of Common Prayer (Liturgy, Articles of Religion, and Ordinal - ways of gospel worship, belief, and ministerial application).

The foundation of Anglicanism in its constitutional elements is affirmative of revealed truth and affective in its influences upon the soul. It represents the incorporation of sense and sensibility - understanding and sensitivity toward the grace of God as declared in his word and conveyed through his Spirit. A remarkable feature in the majority of the leaders of the English Reformation was their tenderness toward God and man. Many of them were men of great resolve and courage with a mien of personal mildness and goodwill. So-called "Cranmerism" is a discipline of kindness as exhibited in the Archbishop himself, his contemporary colleagues (John Bradford, Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr) and his successors (men such as James Ussher, John Devanant, and Joseph Hall). In its prescribed form Anglicanism is the expression of Christian equilibrium - boldness for truth, balance in presentation.


Anglicanism was most fortunate to receive the strong, sound influence of a giant of the Continental Reformation. Peter Martyr in his God-given talents of mind and heart was equal in greatness to John Calvin in the evangelical cause of the 17th century. He being like Luther, a former member of the Augustinian Order in nurture, and, as with each of the major Reformers, a beneficiary of the best theological and philosophical schooling of the time, Martyr's mind was well furnished to come to grips with the great religious issues of the day. This Florentine man of God was saluted by Calvin as the "miracle of Italy".

At the invitation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Martyr was summoned to England to assist in the reform of the Ecclesia Anglicana as Professor of Theology at the University of Oxford, from which office the effects of his teaching and writing must have been truly inestimable. A particular project pursued during his time at Oxford was Martyr's commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans wherein the great Italian articulated his views on the fundamental Reformational doctrines of Justification by Faith and Divine Election - the planks of a genuine Anglican understanding of salvation irrefutably outlined and maintained. Furthermore, it was Martyr who settled for his close colleagues, and especially Calvin, the nature and benefits of the sacrament of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, and his interpretation permeates the relevant pages of the Book of Common Prayer.

Anglicanism is not simply Augustinian, as distinct from other interpretations of Holy Scripture, but Vermiglian far beyond common recognition. In shared conversation and accommodation (for some time) with Cranmer the two men came to close accord on essential Christian doctrine as regards the method of grace and the meaning of the sacraments. Furthermore, a close disciple of Martyr happened to be that leading architect of Anglicanism, John Jewel, who befriended Martyr in England and fled to Martyr's side and tutorship during the Marian persecution of the English Protestants. Hence Martyr's influence in the established Church's Confession of Faith, the revision of which occurred under the chairmanship of Jewel, is highly significant. The bonds of companionship between Martyr and Cranmer and Martyr and Jewel must have been warm and affectionate, and in intimate accord on Biblical terms. It is very likely that the Devonshire country cleric whom Jewel supported (funded?) through his studies, Richard Hooker, retained and respected the tradition of Martyr's views more than is acknowledged, for Hooker was a Reformed man. All the men referred to in this paragraph were soundly Augustinian in thought and of attractive mildness in temperament.

What is said of Martyr's imprint on Anglicanism, though differing in personal detail, could well be said of the sojourn of Martin Bucer in England and his friendship with Thomas Cranmer and scholarly efforts as Professor of Theology at Cambridge University. The colors of Anglicanism owe much to the brushstrokes of two of the finest masters of the Reformation - two men in agreement with Calvin on the basic essentials of Christian belief and who also exerted a considerable weight upon the convictions of the celebrated Genevan themselves. As far as pious human forces go under God, Anglicanism is conclusively, in its origins, and intended continuance, as indicated in Liturgy and Confession, a Reformed Church wholly compatible with its contemporary sister churches on the European continent of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Unwelcome modifications were made under the Arminian policies of Archbishop William Laud and his equally Arminian and Roman Catholic-leaning Sovereign, Charles I.


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