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PREDESTINATION: THE BEDROCK OF CLASSIC ANGLICANISM

PREDESTINATION: THE BEDROCK OF CLASSIC ANGLICANISM

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
February 10, 2020

There is no single solution to Anglicanism's parlous state. It happens to be defective in so many areas too plenteous to enumerate. Well may Anglicans unite in the chorus "there is no health in us". It is not only a moral lament but a woeful admission, almost for the whole movement. Even measures taken for a resurgence of a credible Anglicanism evince obvious flaws and a certain feebleness in character. A well-rounded, fully equipped classic Anglicanism is yet to enter the scene. Strength of conviction, maturity of piety, worthiness of worship, resolve in discipline, effectiveness of declaration is scarce, especially in combination. Anglicanism appears to be sickly and pitiful, and particularly in its top-level leadership.

The retention of our heritage is imperiled by indifference, ignorance, and antipathy - the trinity allied against Anglicanism in its authentic guise. Cradle Anglicans hardly care. So far, the Canterbury trail has not facilitated a real encounter with the genuine article for newcomers. Most of us dabble in the shallows of contemporary versions of Anglicanism that derive from very faint emanations of the strong biblical and Reformed Catholic tradition that once steered generations of saints across the stormy sea of life. The Anglican Way formerly afforded a reliable compass that guided God's voyagers to home port.

"Blessed are all thy saints, O God and King, who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this life and have made the harbor of peace and felicity. Watch over us who are still on dangerous voyage. Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in thy mercy thou hast set our course, so pilot the vessel of our life towards the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at last to the quiet haven of our heart's desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord." St. Augustine

Augustine was familiar with the sea journey from North Africa to Italy and home again. His analogy of seafaring pertaining to the perils of the Christian life reflects his pastoral heart and his undergirding of the doctrine of grace for the comfort of believers. For the doctrine of predestination is preeminently pastoral in content and intent. Augustine, following the period of the early church fathers, who understandably sought to avoid any hint of the pagan belief in fatalism, was foreordained to expound the truth concerning electing love in explicit fashion. It is often remarked of the Pauline theology in the New Testament, that "Paul said it, and Augustine read it". Electing love is the underlying theme of Divine Revelation and predestination is the firm substratum of every soteriological doctrine. It undergirds all that the plan of salvation discloses to us and must inevitably arch to the surface in open prospect for persons of faith to see. St Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries set the terms and tone for a sound soteriology in the mind and teaching of the church, as ratified by the councils of Carthage, Ephesus, and Orange, and by papal decree in 520.

Thereafter, Augustinianism largely prevailed in a somewhat mild form following the lead of St Prosper who championed a single predestination to salvation only, with the proviso that God desired the salvation of all. However, a stronger Augustinianism was sustained and emphasized within the church by successive significant theologians such as Fulgentius, the Venerable Bede (of whom H.J. Hillerbrand noted that the famous British scholar, admired throughout Europe, followed Augustine all the way), Alcuin of York, Retramnus (who supported the cause of Gottschalk), Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, Peter Lombard (of the famous Sentences), Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux and his leading Cistercian brothers Ailred and William St Thierry, Thomas Bradwardine, Archbishop of Canterbury, John Wycliffe, Gregory of Rimini, and a host of others, whose distinctly pastoral voice echoed the views of Augustine, including Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Thomas a Kempis, John Colet (Lectures on Romans), Johann Staupitz (Luther's monastic superior).

The highly symbolic portrait of Thomas Cranmer by Gerlach Flicke presents the Archbishop with a copy of The Epistles of St. Paul held in his hands and an edition of St Augustine's Faith and Works placed on the table. This painting is indeed a graphic display of the fundamentals of the English Reformation and Cranmer's personal doctrinal persuasion - Holy Scripture and accurate human interpretation. In these two bases the core Anglican Reformers and subsequent [Arch]bishops, church leaders, and scholars were one until the emergence of Lancelot Andrewes, William Laud, and his Catholicizing partner Charles Stuart in the 17th century.

From Parker (1559-1575) to Abbot (1611-1633) the occupants of the throne of Canterbury were all convinced Augustinians and Reformed believers, avid Episcopalians all, but each one a convinced Calvinist (Parker, Whitgift, Grindal, Bancroft, Abbot). The Ecclesia Anglicana was solidly predestinarian in theological conviction. John Whitgift sponsored the Lambeth Articles based upon Beza's schema, and Richard Bancroft, often alleged not to be an Augustinian, proved his predestinarian sympathies by his support from Whitgift, his own recorded statements both private, and in the official publication of a defense of the Augustinian position. In fact, Bancroft preferred to arrive at and treat of election, not from the notion of an eternal decree, but from the personal experience of effectual grace in the life of the believer.

Predestination was of the utmost importance to Thomas Cranmer doctrinally and devotionally.

Indeed, Diarmaid MacCulloch avers "His theology was structured by predestination" (All Things Made New", Oxford, page 276). While the doctrine is largely shelved in Anglicanism it is safe to surmise that the Archbishop would have been gratified if the doctrine of election featured more prominently in the church he has guided by the legacy of his liturgy and Confession of Faith (Article 17).

ARTICLE 17

It is a truism that any article or statement of faith must necessarily be explicated according to the known views and intentions of those responsible for its origination. To modify it or amend its meaning in order to suit a preferred eisegesis is shady practice, dishonorable and dishonest. Many known attempts to revise the meaning of the Article are evident within Arminianism and Anglo-Catholicism (e.g. Wesley and Newman) but the grammar of the Article cannot bear any other sense than that of the Reformation and item 17 is an exquisite example of orthodox theology and pastoral wisdom.

Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor: This is a purely scriptural enunciation of doctrine requiring the assent of Anglican officials and especially clergy. It is composed in terms agreeable to the entire family of Reformed Churches and is identical to various statements issued by the whole company of Reformed leaders in the 17th century. It is void of speculation as to the order of the decrees of God or the reverse aspect of the choice of the elect (preterition). It states sufficient material to establish divine election as eternal, unchangeable, distinguishing, pertinent to fallen sinners (practically infralapsarian, the only basis for untrammeled gospel preaching), and infallible in its ultimate effect. Grace is the cause and guarantee of eternal redemption. The elect are warmly and affectionately associated with the Son of God in the eternal design of human rescue (this makes them acceptable and approved), bound up in the divine mind and love everlastingly, and they share in every phase of his redemptive assignment, and participate, at last, in his destiny. All is of the Father's love bundled up with Christ's merit and accomplishment.

Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity: The chosen are called, summoned, gathered up, collected together by the Holy Spirit. In his sovereign timing and by his power and prevailing influence they are drawn to faith in Christ. The privilege of adoption as children of the Father becomes theirs. They transition from the devil's parenting to inclusion in the family of God by the bestowal of special and effectual grace, renewed nature, and new obedience. The pure human nature and virtue of Christ is progressively replicated in them. The unfailing mercy of God abides with them through the entire length of earthly life until they enter the kingdom of bliss, holiness, love, and beauty. Christ's obedience and virtue covers them entirely, shelters them from wrath and abandonment, and the grace of his personal presence and indwelling accompanies them to their last breath on earth.

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, and because it doth fervently kindle love towards God: Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to believers. Their acceptance in Christ and by his merits is cause of exultant joy and profound gratitude to God. Theirs is an undeserved and irreversible condition of communion with the Almighty. Their blessedness is impregnable, though often disturbed by sin and adverse circumstances. But pleasant pondering is a prized part of their enviable experience, which may excite a holy envy in the hearts of those not yet living in the actual knowledge of God. The Spirit moves within the godly and sometimes the consciousness of his internal presence brings immense encouragement. The war against remaining inner corruption, the loathing of the wickedness of the world, the elevation to divine meditations is a cherished uplift of the soul. Heavenly preoccupations are indicative of birth from above, our coming home, and entrance to the Kingdom. Here Archbishop Bancroft's subjective approach comes to the fore. Election becomes fragrantly experiential. Such as feel or sense within themselves the motions of the Holy Spirit are receiving his inner testimony. Emotion, sentiment, interior disposition accord with the witness of Sacred Scripture.

So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, where by the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation: Predestination can only wisely and safely be considered by a mind filled with the appreciation of Jesus Christ or the longing for him. The goodness and grace of God is discovered in Jesus. It is Christ who entices us into the meditation and messaging of electing love. Speculation, anxiety, and doubt, are dispersed by our steady gaze upon the crucified and his Calvary love. If we are drawn to Christ then we have him and he has us. The face of lovely Messiah shines upon us. Divine choice is the Lord's business. The revealed fact of predilection is acknowledged candidly, but the grace of disposition prevails as Jesus woos the sinner and the inner voice of the Spirit invites, "You may choose him if you wish" (Augustine), as God movingly inclines us to himself. The Savior receives all comers. What we could not do for our ourselves The Lord achieves by removing every obstacle and endowing us with a freed will.

Fears of certain family members of both aristocratic personages, Lord Byron and Bertrand Russell, tragically drew carnal conclusions from the facts of foreordination, as have many incautious persons, but Christ gives us the only lens to train upon the great mystery of electing love. It presents no true barrier to the genuine desires of any person. Its design is to hasten our search for Christ (Make your calling and election sure. 2 Peter 1:10) and to confirm our entrance into glory in spite of our weakness and instability. Our innate desires, whether of grace or nature (Pascal's conception of concupiscence, antipathy to God and gratification of self - base or sophisticated), register with he who knows the secrets of the human heart. Penitence is facilitated by grace, impenitence is the driving force, actually preferred, within unregenerate man.

The wonderful exhortation of Article 17 is issued to all without exception irrespective of moral condition, mental frame or mood: 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. The gospel alone gives us safe navigation through the sublime doctrines of the Bible. With our minds we perceive all the teachings of Scripture. With our hearts taught by God we believe aright. "And they will all be taught by God. 'Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me'" (John 6:45).

OBSERVATIONS

The authority, accuracy, and application of the Anglican persuasion on predestination is only valid if the clear and indisputable convictions of the framers of Article 17 is frankly acknowledged and authentically accepted. It is salutary, therefore, to acquaint ourselves with the unanimous view of those who crafted our liturgy and Confession of Faith. Confessional integrity summons us all who minister in the reformed Anglican Church.

The principal 16th century Reformers of our Church (Ridley, Jewel, Bradford, Latimer) were one with Cranmer in his theological structure arising from predestination. The content of the BCP 1662 fits in marvelously with the Cranmerian fabric. Everything unfolds exquisitely and alluringly - prayers, praises, pronouncements. All is of grace, sweet grace, pure unaided mercy. Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer greatly influenced Cranmer and his colleagues and these men of the Continental Reformation were disciples of the noble phalanx of sound and devout Augustinians of former epochs. Indeed, it is Peter Martyr who stands tall as the principal preceptor of the Tudor church of Christ. Via Martyr the teaching of Gregory of Rimini is piped into the Anglican mind.

The lineage is long but brevity must be observed: Ratramnus guided the mind of Ridley, Gregory of Rimini, through the counsel of Peter Martyr and Jerome Zanchius, played his role in the direction of Anglican soteriology. Bradwardine and Wycliffe were honored as spiritual masters. Hooker declared his approval of Calvin and shared the premise of the great Genevan's hold on salvation truth, as did notable heirs of the Reformation in the 17th century: Ussher (who translated the poetry of Gottschalk and highly respected him), John Preston, Richard Sibbes, William Gurnall, John Donne, whose redemptive thought paralleled that of the moderate Puritans, Henry Beveridge, an Augustinian high churchman who paid close heed to the pastoral concerns of the 17th Article. John Davenant and Joseph Hall were two royal appointees to the Synod of Dort who happened to share the conviction that the conclusions of Dort comported with the Augustinian orthodoxy of the Church of England.

The 18th century Awakening throughout England raised up a galaxy of warm, vibrant Augustinian preachers among whom were principal figures such as George Whitfield, William Romaine, William Grimshaw, Henry Venn, and Augustus Toplady (see Toplady's Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England. 'The book remains unanswered, and that for the simplest of reasons, that it is unanswerable' Ryle). The overspill of Evangelical Calvinism into the 19th century was borne by men of the calibre of Charles Simeon, Henry Law, Charles Bridge, Legh Richmond, John McNeile and J.C. Ryle. More recent times have been ripe with the invaluable ministries of a strong contingent of modern advocates of the Reformed Anglican Faith. Numerical strength may ebb and flow but the beneficial Augustinian witness still remains and, may it please God, that even yet a powerful resurgence of bold Augustinan preaching and teaching may sound forth from a Spirit empowered Anglicanism in these spiritually desolate times.

A Quiver of Quotes

Cranmer and Calvin would find much common ground. Both were predestinarians and belief in predestination shaped what they were able to say about both eucharist and baptism. Thomas Cranmer, Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Richard Hooker asserted: 1. That God has predestined certain men, not all men. 2. That the cause moving him hereunto was not the foresight of any virtue in us at all. 3 That to him the number of the elect is definitely known. 4. That it cannot be but their sins must condemn them to whom the purpose of his saving mercy doth not extend. 5. That to God's foreknown elect, the final continuance of grace is given. 6. That inward grace whereby to be saved, is deservedly not given unto all men. 7. That no man comes to Christ whom God by the inward grace of his Spirit draws not. 8. And that it is not in every, no not in any man's own mere ability, freedom, and power to be saved, no man's salvation being possible without grace. Daniel E. Eppley, Richard Hooker, The Reformation Theologians.

Though the English delegates at Dort knew better than most Englishmen (including perhaps the king) that Arminianism and 'Socinian gangrene' were not identical, nevertheless they had to side with the Calvinist majority because of their ordination vows to uphold the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. Writing on this question to Bishop Davenant, Hall said: 'I will live and die in the suffrage of that synod of Dort; and I do confidently avow that those other opinions (of Arminius) cannot stand with the doctrine of the church of England.' To which his fellow delegate replied: 'I know that no man can embrace Arminianism in the doctrines of predestination and grace but he must desert the Articles agreed upon by the Church of England. Bishop Joseph Hall, Frank Livingstone Huntley, page 109.

When Donne is not thus fending off the Puritans, his differences with them on the matter of grace seem slight enough . . . grace can deal definitely with the most resistant will, as in the case of the thief crucified with Christ, whose conversion illustrates "the infallibility and dispatch of the grace of God upon them, whom his gracious purpose hath ordained to salvation: how powerfully he works; how instantly they obey" (Sermons, 1:254). The theme belongs to Donne as much as to any occupant of a "popular pulpit," and presumably the ears of his audience itched for it as much as any assembly of Puritans. And certainly his treatment of it does not consistently give larger role to human initiative or expand the claim for human merit.

Without Grace and such a succession of Grace, our Will is far unable to pre-dispose itself to any good . . . we have no interest in our selves, no power to do anything of, or with ourselves, but to our destruction. Miserable man! A Toad is a bag of poison, and a Spider is a blister of Poison, and yet a Toad and a Spider cannot poison themselves; man hath a dram of poison, original-Sin in an invisible corner, we know not where, and he cannot choose but poison himself and all his actions with that; we are so far from being able to begin without Grace, as when we have the first Grace, we cannot proceed to the use of that without more. (Sermons, 1:293)

He is as precise as Taylor in his use of the nomenclature of Reformed theology. The grace which provokes the faith which leads to justification is preventing or prevenient: "no man can prepare that work, no man can begin it, no man can proceed it in himself. The desire and actual beginning is from the preventing grace of God" (Sermons, 2:305).

Since I saw you, God has been pleased to enlighten me more in that comfortable doctrine of election, &c. At my return, I hope to be more explicit than I have been. God forbid, my dear brother, that we should shun to declare the whole counsel of God.

Oh the excellency of the divine of election, and of the saints final perseverance, to those who are truly sealed by the Spirit of promise! I am persuaded, till an man comes to feel and believe these important truths, he cannot come out of himself,; but when convinced of these, and assured of the application of them to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed, not in himself, but in the Son of God, who died and gave himself for him.

You know how strongly I assert all the doctrines of grace as contains in the Westminster of Faith, and in the doctrinal Articles of the church of England. I trust, I shall adhere to these as long as I live; because I have felt the power of them in my heart.
(George Whitefield's Letters 1734 - 1742).

In a word, I believe that Calvinistic divinity is the divinity of the Bible, of Augustine, and of the Thirty-nine Articles of my own church, and of the Scotch Confession of Faith. While, therefore, I repeat that I cannot endorse all the sentiments of Toplady's controversial writings, I do claim for them the merit of being in principle Scriptural, sound, and true. Well would it be for the churches, if we had a good deal more of clear, distinct, sharply cut doctrine in the present day! Vagueness, and indistinctness are marks of our degenerate condition. Bishop J.C. Ryle, Toplady and His Ministry, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century.

Sion lies waste, and thy Jerusalem.
O Lord, is fall'n to utter desolation,
Against thy prophets and thy holy men,
The sin hath wrought a fatal combination,
Prophaned thy name, thy worship overthrown,
And made thee, living Lord, a God unknown.

Fulke Greville

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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