Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mary, the Queen of May

In the Roman Catholic Church, May is observed as Mary's month, and Mary is honored as “the Queen of May.”. In celebration of Mary as “the Queen of Heaven” and “the Mother of God” the head of an image or likeness of Mary is crowned with flowers on May Day—May 1. The ceremony traditionally takes place with young girls wearing white dresses carrying flowers (traditionally hawthorn) to adorn the statue. One of the girls (often the youngest) carries a crown of flowers or an actual golden crown on a cushion for placement by the May Queen (often the oldest girl) on the statue. The flowers are replaced throughout the month to keep them fresh. May altars, dedicated to Mary, are decorated. Marian devotions are held throughout the month, usually in the evening, both indoors and outdoors. In the latter case they may be held in a wooded glade. The last devotion on May 31 is often followed by a solemn procession during which a statue or portrait of Mary may be carried through the community into the church.

Anglo-Catholics who have been strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church also maintain these practices.

Customs associated with May Day in the British Isles include crowning a May Queen and dancing around a May Pole. These customs have their origins in pre-Christian times, and are the survival of ancient spring fertility rites. In Ireland May Day has been celebrated since pagan times as Beltane and bonfires are light to mark the occasion.

In pre-Christian Europe May Day was the first day of summer. In ancient Greece May was devoted to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. The cult of Mary is the strongest in those parts of Europe that in pagan times were devoted to the cult of the Goddess in her various aspects, including Artemis. With the Christianization of Europe devotion to the Goddess may have been transferred to Mary.

May is a particularly appropriate time of the year to examine how the worship of Mary, condemned as a heresy in the first four centuries of Christianity, has grown into a major part of the Roman Catholic faith since then. The following articles are taken from A Protestant Dictionary, published in 1904.

The Virgin Mary

MARY, THE VIRGIN. No Christian can ever think of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, without the deepest feelings of respect and affection. No candid reader can doubt that Matthew and Luke both represent her as a virgin at the time of the birth of her divine Son (Matt. i. 18-25 ; Luke i. 26-38). The genealogies given by these two Evangelists are probably official registers, and their discrepancies have been accounted for on various hypotheses. Matt. i. 16 may have been tampered with by scribes in old Greek or Syriac MSS., but the intention of both authors is patent, and their accounts were unquestionably believed from the earliest times. That Mary was afterwards the wife of Joseph is explicitly stated in Matt. i. 24 ; that by him she gave birth to other sons is implied in verse 25, according to most MSS., as well as in all MSS. of Luke ii. 7. The names of "brethren" of Jesus are mentioned in Matt. xiii. 55. to which are added "sisters" in verse 56.

Two alternative hypotheses were brought forward in the fourth century to account for this: one being that of Jerome, i.e. that these brethren and sisters were the children of His mother’s sister (John xix. 25), who was identical with Mary the wife of Alphaeus or Cleophas; the other, that of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salainis, that they were the children of Joseph by a former wife. The first of these conjectures is rendered doubtful by the statement that " neither did His brethren believe in Him (John vii. 5), at a time when He had already appointed His twelve disciples (see previous chapter, verse 70), one of whom we know from Matt. x. 3, Mark iii. 18, and Luke vi. 15 to have been James the son of Alphaeus. "His brethren " are also mentioned as persons present in an upper room at Jerusalem after the Ascension, "James the son of Alphaeus" having been previously named.

Both theories are very ably dealt with by Mr. Latham in The Risen Master, who says (p. 305), "What weighs most with me is the repeated mention of the brethren as being in company with their mother. We find them clinging to her in a way which we should not expect to find in four stepsons, the youngest of whom must have been well over thirty years of age; and their doing so is still more improbable if we suppose them to be nephews." Latham also considers "His mother’s sister," in John xix. 25, to be Salome. The only real difficulty about, the supposition that they were the sons of Mary lies in the fact that on the Cross our Lord commended His mother to the care of John ; which may be accounted for by the absence or estrangement of the "brethren," an estrangement which was afterwards removed by our Lord’s appearance to James, recorded incidentally by St. Paul in 1 Cor. xv. 7.

That Mary had no appointed work or official position in the Church of her divine Son is evident at almost every mention of her name. When Jesus, at the age of twelve, is found tarrying in the Temple, He replies to her affectionate remonstrance, "Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing " (Luke ii. 48), with the significant claim to a divine Sonship, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business ? " (verse 49). When Mary seeks to direct His exercise of divine power at the marriage feast of Cana, He replies, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? " When, with His brethren, she tries to restrain Him from addressing the multitudes, He asks, " Who are my mother and my brethren?" and proclaims a wider kinship with all who do the will of His Father who is in heaven. It is significant that our Lord appeared first not to His mother, but to Mary Magdalene and other women; and also that in the memorable gathering after the Ascension (Acts i. 14), the presence of other women is recorded before that of "His mother." Clearly, therefore, a leading place in the assemblies of the Church was not accorded to Mary during her earthly life.

So much for Holy Scripture. At what period, then, in the Church's history did Mariolatry arise? In the Epistle from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth, written, according to Dionysius of Corinth and Eusebius, by Clement, probably about A.D. 95, the Virgin is not even mentioned, nor is there any allusion to her in the so-called Second Epistle of Clement. (See APOSTOLIC FATHERS. )

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians does not once mention Mary. In all the Epistles of Ignatius she is not alluded to more than six times, being simply called "Mary," without any epithet. Apologies and treatises dating from the second century are extant, and in them, had the apostles or earliest Christians considered that any special honour was due to Mary beyond what is hers as a good woman, we should expect to find expressions of reverent worship. Probably the earliest is the Apology of Aristides, read at Athens before the Emperor Hadrian about A.D. 125, of which the Syriac text was discovered by Dr. Rendel Harris in 1889, and the Greek by Dean Armitage Robinson soon afterwards. This Apology says (ed. Harris, Texts and Studies, 1891, p. 36), "It is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin took and clad Himself with flesh, and in a daughter of man there dwelt the Son of God. This is taught from that Gospel which a little while ago was spoken among them as being preached; wherein if ye will also read, ye will comprehend the power that is upon it."

The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, was written at the end of the first or the beginning of the second century. Lightfoot considers it to be of the earlier date, chiefly because in it bishops and presbyters are still synonymous. A manuscript of it, in Greek, was discovered in 1875 at Constantinople by Bishop Bryennius, Metropolitan of Nicomedia ; it is now in the Library of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. In it there is no mention whatever of the Virgin Mary.

The Epistle of Barnabas must have been written between A.D. 70 and A.D. 132. It is quoted as Scripture by Clement of Alexandria, and in it also there is no mention of the Lord’s mother. In the Shepherd of Hermas, allusion to Mary is likewise conspicuous by its absence. The whole "plot of the story," if we may so call it, consists of visions which Hermas saw. In these a glorified woman is the most prominent figure, and here, if anywhere, it would have been suitable to introduce the Virgin; but such an idea does not seem to have occurred to the second-century author. The lady in question is explained to represent the Church.

There is in existence a letter from the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium, relating the martyrdom of Polycarp, which took place in A.D. 155 or 156. There is no mention of Mary in it.

In an age of science like ours, no importance can be attached to mediaeval or modern visions or dreams, such as that of S. Gregory Thaumaturgus in the third century, or to the little girl Bernadotte at Lourdes in the nineteenth. These would be worthy of attention only if they had revealed anything new or valuable that could not have been previously in the dreamer’s thoughts. In the case of the supposed apparition at Lourdes, it cannot be believed that the powers and faculties of the mind are not further developed in heaven than they have been on earth; how then could the woman who uttered the sublime poetry of the Magnificat find no better words in which to express herself nineteen centuries later than "I am the Immaculate Conception?"

Irenasus says (Haer., iii. ch. 22, 4), "What the Virgin Eve bound by unbelief, that the Virgin Mary loosed by faith." This is nothing more than a pious observation for the purpose of his argument, which is, that the Lord Jesus was verily man of the substance of His mother. There is in Irenaeus writings no trace of adoration nor of appeal to any influence of Mary.

The real source of Mariolatry is to be found in apocryphal writings. The Protevangelium Jacobi, the kernel of which may have been written within the second century (but which, according to Harnack, received its present shape two centuries later), is manifestly a romance, founded on the Gospel story of the Nativity. It purports to be written by James about the time "when Herod died a bitter death" (see ed. Lewis, Studia Sinaitica, No. XI. p. 12). James the son of Alphseus, or James the Lord’s brother, must be meant, for James the son of Zebedee had been slain by Herod some time previously (cf. Acts xii. 2 with ver. 23). The author insists on the perpetual virginity of Mary, but, like the Lewis Palimpsest in Matt. i. 21, he does not scruple to make the Angel say to Joseph, "She shall bear to thee a son" (ibid. p. 7).

On two points the Prot. Jac. is inconsistent with the canonical Gospels. One is that it represents Mary’s father to have been a wealthy man. As a sign of rejoicing when his wife Hanna is about to become a mother, he offers ten fat lambs to the Lord God, besides giving ten fat bull-calves to the priests and elders, and a hundred kids to all the people (ibid. p. 2). Contrast this with the offering made by his daughter for her purification, as recorded by Luke (ii. 24), a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons, i.e. the offering allowed in Lev. xii. 8 in such cases when through poverty a lamb could not be provided. The other is that the priest is represented as saying to Mary, "Thou who wast reared in the Holy of Holies" (ibid. p. 7). But the High Priest alone entered the Holy of Holies, and only once a year (Exod. xxx. 10; Lev. xvi. 2 ; Heb. ix. 7); so we must conclude that the author of the Protevangelium was probably a Gentile, and that he wrote at a time when the usages of the Jewish Temple were not vividly remembered. No Jew would have made such a blunder.

Although the Protevangelium insists strongly on the perpetual virginity of Mary, it does not direct any adoration to be offered to her. It is far otherwise with the Transitus Mariae, a work which dates from the fourth century. According to Ewald, "the whole cultus of Mary in the Papal Church rests upon this book." In it she is called the "Mother of God." All created beings are incited to adore her. She is said to have been "holy and elect of God before she was born." It relates that the heads of the monks at, Mount Sinai, who had jurisdiction over 320 monasteries on that holy mountain, sent to ask Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, for a book about the exit of the Lady Mary from this world. The book they wanted could not be found; but another was found in the writing of James the Bishop, from
which it appeared that she died in the year 345. This date is remarkable, for, assuming it to be reckoned from the era of Alexander, it is equivalent to A.D. 33, that is, three years after the Crucifixion. The real book was at last found at Ephesus, placed at the mouth of a cave, "where the grace of Mar John flows," that apostle having previously appeared to the seekers in a vision. Its narrative begins by representing Mary, immediately after the death of her Son, as going daily to His tomb, weeping and praying and burning spices. The author does not seem to think that she had ever heard of His Resurrection, and neither, apparently, has Abgar, King of Edessa, who writes to ask the Emperor Tiberius to take vengeance on the murderers of the Messiah.

Mary, like the Arcadian Artemis of old, is served by virgins; men and women worship her; apostles adore her. She is addressed as "Mistress of the world." She delivers travellers from robbers; she snatches up a boy from a well; splits up a snake by a blow; and leads a merchant to find a purse that he had lost. Sailors call on her in distress, and she helps them. The Apostle John is summoned to Mary’s death-bed at Bethlehem from the city of Ephesus, where he was "commanding his disciples concerning the service of the Christ." The author was evidently careless of chronology, as according to Gal. ii. 1, 9, fourteen years after Paul's conversion John was still one of the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem, and the Church of Ephesus had not yet come into being. By a similar anachronism, Peter and Paul are at the same time summoned from Rome. None of the apostles had yet died, except Andrew, the brother of Simon Cephas, and Philip, and Luke, and Simon the Zealot. This is in contradiction to Acts xii. 2, and Luke, for one, lived till long after (2 Tim. iv. 11). At the moment of Mary's death, the Apostles implore her to leave a blessing to the world, in order that those who "make commemoration " to her" may be delivered from sore afflictions." Mary responds by praying to her Son; and He promises to grant the requests of all who commemorate her, and to bless their land.

The Virgin is escorted by the apostles in great glory to Paradise, after which the apostles return to the Mount of Olives, where they write a book in Hebrew and Greek and Latin, which they give into the keeping of the Apostle John. It directs that a commemoration is to be made of the Lady Mary three times a year: (1) On the 6th of January, that the fruits of the earth may be blessed (thus renewing the worship of Artemis under a Christian name), and that peace may be preserved. (2) About the beginning of May, on account of the seeds that are sown, and for the abundance of wheat ; during a whole month at this season there is to be a commemoration of Mary, to avert locusts and other insect plagues from the vines. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the year offerings are to be made. (3) Also on the 13th day of Ab (August) to avert the destruction of vines by hail. On the day of commemoration men are to fast until the ninth hour, the Scriptures are to be read, and also the account of the Virgin’s decease. Peter directs the apostles to return each to the country whence he had come, and there to write a book telling the people of that country about the commemorations.

Mary’s body is carried to the Paradise of Eden, which is situated above all high mountains, four rivers issuing from it. Here her divine Son meets her, and at His word she arises. Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and Peter come to her, the last-named somewhat curiously, as he has just been represented as still living upon earth. Mary is taken up to the heaven of heavens; there, amongst other wonders, she sees twelve gates, at each of which an apostle is standing, the author having forgotten that she had just left them below. Mary is worshipped by angels, by cherubim, seraphim, and all the heavenly host. She also sees the place of torment, and prays for the trembling sinners who are waiting to be consigned to it. John, as well as Peter, joins Mary in the world of glory. Mary prophesies to him about the distress that shall come upon the earth. Our Lord tells her that when men call on her by her name they shall be delivered from their afflictions. Mary informs John that there is to be at the time of the end of the world a commemoration of her bones, and "whosoever shall call on the name of the Mother of God shall be delivered from his afflictions."

It is evident that this is the work of a dreamer or romancer, who, in his imagination, attributed to the mother of Jesus the powers which the Greeks attributed to Demeter and to the Ephesian Artemis. Even the title "Queen of Heaven," applied to the Virgin in later ages, reminds the reader of Scripture of Jer. xliv. 17-19, 25. It is significant that the place where the greatest enthusiasm about her deification prevailed was Ephesus, to whose elders Paul had prophesied that of themselves men should arise speaking perverse things; as if the mob whose predecessors shouted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," could not abandon their worship of a virgin goddess.

Both the Protevangelium and the Transitus Mariae were placed on the first Index of Prohibited Books said to have been issued either by Pope Gelasius in A.D. 494. or by Hormisdas in 514. St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, in Cyprus, writing in the fourth century against the Collyridians, says, After this a heresy appeared, which we have already mentioned slightly by means of the letter written in Arabia about Mary. And this heresy was again made public in Arabia from Thrace and the upper parts of Scythia, and was brought to our ears, which to men of understanding will be found ridiculous and laughable. We will begin to trace it out, and to relate concerning it. It will be judged (to partake of) silliness rather than of sense, as is the case with others like it. For, as formerly, out of insolence towards Mary, those whose opinions were such sowed hurtful ideas in the reflexions of men, so likewise these, leaning to the other side, fall into the utmost harm. . . . For the harm is equal in both these heresies, the one belittling the holy Virgin, the other again glorifying her over much. For who should it be that teach thus but women ? for the race of women is slippery, fallible, and humble-minded. . . . For some women deck out a kourikon;, that is to say, a square stool, spreading upon it a linen cloth, on some solemn day of the year, for some days they lay out bread, and offer it in the name of Mary. All the women partake of the bread, as we related in the letter to Arabia, writing partly about that. . . . Yea, verily, the body of Mary was holy, but was surely not God. Verily, the Virgin was a virgin, and was honoured, but was not given to us to worship; but she worships Him who was born from her according to the flesh, having come from heaven out of the Father’s bosom. Therefore the Gospel guarantees us, telling that the Lord said, What is there to Me and to thee, O woman ? Mine hour is not yet come. In order that from the O woman, what is there to Me and to thee, none should think the holy Virgin to be greater. He called her woman, as prophesying, on account of the schisms and heresies that should be on the earth, in order that none admiring the holy one to excess should fall into this frivolity of heresy." "These (women) again renew the mixture to Fortune, and make ready the table to the Demon and not to God, according to what is written, and eat the food of impiety, as saith the divine Word, And the women knead dough, and the sons gather wood to make cakes to the host of heaven (Jer. vii. 18). Let such women be muzzled by Jeremiah, and let them not disturb the habitable world.Let them not say, Let us honour the Queen of Heaven." This offering and eating of cakes was probably derived from the worship of Artemis.

No one who has travelled in Roman Catholic lands will need any proof of the idolatrous nature of the worship offered to the Virgin Mary in the churches subject to the See of Rome. But for the sake of those who have not the opportunity of witnessing this, we extract a few of the directions of the Roman Breviary, reformed by order of the Council of Trent, published by order of Pius V., and revised by Popes Clement VII. and Urban VIII., as translated by John, Marquis of Bute. Frequently to be repeated: "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen." On Sunday at Vespers, and at other times, we have this antiphon: " Holy Mary, be thou a help to the helpless, a strength to the fearful, a comfort to the sorrowful, pray for the people, plead for the clergy, make intercession for all women vowed to God ; may all that keep thine holy remembrance feel the might of thine assistance. Pray for us, holy Mother of God." At Compline we have, " Hail, Mary, Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angel worlds on high, Hail, O Rod to Jesse given, Blessed Portal of the sky." God is implored to grant everlasting life by the help of Mary. She is called Mother of Mercy, our Advocate, and asked to show Jesus to her worshippers, as if the Saviour were still a Babe in her arms. We have as an antiphon for Advent : " Mary said, What manner of salutation is this ? My soul is troubled. Shall I bear the King ? and will He not break the seal of my virginity ? " It would be worth while to know by whom these unnatural words were recorded, and why, if spoken, the canonical Evangelists omitted them.

On the first Sunday of October there is a Solemn Feast of the most holy Rose-garden of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 4th lesson in this office relates that St. Dominic received a command from Mary bidding him "preach up the saying of her Rosary." "In the Rose-garden, or Rosary, we say the Salutation of the Angel 150 times, and the Lord s Prayer between every 10 times ; and each of the 15 times that we thus say the Lord s Prayer, and repeat tenfold the Salutation, we are to think of one of 15 great events in the history of our redemption. This form of prayer waxed common. That this same Dominic was the founder and prime mover thereof hath been said by Popes in divers letters of the Apostolic See." The victory at Lepanto was ascribed by Pope Clement XI. to the practice. Pope Benedict XIII. commanded it to be recorded in the service-book of the Church.

Yet in the Roman Breviary we are glad to perceive a gleam of true doctrine concerning Mary. It occurs in a homily by St. Austin (Augustine), Bishop of Hippo, and is read in the 7th lesson of the 3rd nocturn on Good Friday," Her who was His Mother, not in that nature as touching which He is equal to the Father, but in that as touching which He is inferior to the Father." But this is only a ray of sunshine, which tends to make the shadows darker.

In the 6th lesson of the 2nd nocturn on the third Sunday after Easter, Joseph is asked to obtain for us some pity from Mary! In the Office for Virgins, 5th lesson of 2nd nocturn, we have," It was Maidenhood that pierced beyond the clouds, the atmosphere, the Angels, and the stars, and came upon the word of God," &c. In the Office for Feasts of the Blessed Virgin, we have, "Oh, by Gabriel’s AVE, uttered long ago, EVA’S name reversing, stablish peace below!" As if Gabriel spoke Latin! In the 5th lesson, "She alone is greater than heaven and earth." In the 6th lesson, "Through her we obtain the remission of sins." The 6th Responsory applies to her the language of the 45th Psalm, in defiance of the statements of Paul and John that the Church is the Bride of Christ. In the 3rd nocturn we have, "Thou hast trampled down all the heresies in the whole world," and in the 7th Responsory, "Mary, blessed Maid of Maidens, be our Advocate with God." In the 3rd lesson for the simple Office of the Virgin for April, St. Jerome s exposition of Ezekiel xliv. 1, 2 is given, in which the gate of the Sanctuary looking towards the East is interpreted as meaning the Virgin Mary. In the lesson for August (Pope St. Gregory the Great on 1 Sam. i. 1), "The name of Mount Ephraim may be applied to the most blessed Mother of God, as she was indeed a mountain" and the prophecy of Isaiah ii. 2 is accordingly applied to her, " The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains." Such exegesis is simply puerile. In the lesson for October (St. Bernard), Mary is said to be "the fleece between the dew and the floor" ( Jud. vi. 37-40), the woman between the sun and the moon (Apoc. xii. 1), Mary standing midway between Christ and the Church." In the lesson for November (St. Basil), she is said to be the Prophetess to whom Isaiah went in (Isa. viii. 3), "very closely by the spirit of foreknowledge."

In the Office for the Immaculate Conception, 1st nocturn, 3rd lesson, Gen. iii. 15 is translated, "She shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise her heel," in defiance of the fact that the Hebrew pronouns are masculine, and the Greek ones of the Septuagint are so also. The verse Luke xi. 27 is quoted, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked," but the Lord s response on the occasion is omitted. The 6th lesson for the 2nd day within the octave of the Immaculate Conception says, "The Catholic Church, which, through the perpetual teaching of the Holy Ghost, is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. iii. 15), hath always held the original innocence of this most exalted Virgin to be bound up with her wonderful holiness and her mighty dignity of Mother of God. . . . This belief is found strong in the earliest times." Cardinal Newman, on the contrary, says (Development of Christian Doctrine, ch. iv. ii. 10), "I have said that there was in the first ages no public and ecclesiastical recognition of the place which St. Mary holds in the Economy of grace; this was reserved for the fifth century."

The Council of Trent said that "it did not mean to say that the blessed and stainless Mary, Mother of God, did not form an exception to the rule" (that all men are conceived in sin). This paved the way for the Dogmatic Bull of Pope Pius IX., published on Dec. 8, 1854, which says that " the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was in the first instant of her conception preserved, by a special privilege granted unto her by God, from any stain of original sin." The Catholic Dictionary (p. 605) draws our attention to the fact that two women are contrasted in the Apocalypse. This is somewhat dangerous, seeing that one of these women is expressly identified with the great city which was afterwards to be the seat of the Papacy (Rev. xvii. 18). The cult of Mary in the Western Church reaches its highest point in the works of St. Alfonso Liguori and Henri Laserre.

In early liturgies of the Greek Church, prayers and hymns to the Virgin hold a subordinate place. They do not occur frequently, and are absent from the oldest MSS. (see Swainson, Greek Liturgies, p. xxxvii.). An appeal to God to remember, amongst other events, the Archangel’s voice, which said, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured," was the first form of one of these invocations. Later scribes omitted the appeal to God to remember the Archangel’s voice, leaving only the salutation, which therefore comes in sometimes in an inappropriate connection. Dr. Swainson says, "By this simple process the Commemoration of the Annunciation became an Invocation of the Virgin." She is always called "Mother of God, and perpetual Virgin." In sixteenth-century MSS. of the Liturgies of St. Chrysostom and of St. James, Christ is be sought to save, direct, and protect us through her prayers, and to accept the Eucharist through her mediation. Praises are occasionally addressed to her. In the modern liturgy of the Greek Church, prayers are offered to Mary for protection as well as for mediation. She is called the "Heavenly Door," "more holy than the Angels," "the True Vine," "the hope and protection and refuge of Christians," "the invulnerable wall, the winterless harbour." However, she is invariably addressed as kecharitomene, "thou who hast received grace," in contrast to the inaccurate expression " full of grace " of the Roman Church.

In the modern liturgy, an omission similar to the one noticed by Dr. Swainson in the more ancient ones has led to still more curious results. Some of the Psalms are to be recited with this response after each verse, "By the intercession of the Mother of God, Saviour, deliver us;" but as we proceed, we find the last three words omitted. Psalms cxxxii. 1, 6 ; xxii. 1, 2, 3 ; xlv. 1, 2 ; xlviii. 1, 3, 8; cxiv. 1, 2, 3, 5; xciii. 1; xix. 1, 2, 3, 4; Ixxii. 1, 3, are similarly treated.

The Greek Church celebrates the death of Mary on August 15. Its tradition is that the Saviour sent an angel three days previously to announce to His mother her approaching end. She first went and prayed on the Mount of Olives, and then returned to her home to prepare linen for her burial. The apostles arrived on clouds from different parts of the earth, as in the Transitus, and they buried her in Gethsemane ; but after three days she appeared to them, and they knew that she had been carried up bodily to heaven.

Mary is addressed in a hymn as "Mercy-seat of the world," "the ladder which raises every one by grace," "the bridge which really leads all who extol her from death unto life." One of the Absolutions addresses her as having been brought up in the Holy of Holies, in oblivion of Lev. xvi. 2, 13, and of Josephus, who says (Ant. Jud., XV. xi. 5), "The Temple further inward in that gate was not allowed to the women; but still more inward was there a third (court of the) Temple, whereinto it was not lawful for any but the priests alone to enter. The Temple itself was within this " (Whiston’s Translation). An unrecorded salutation is attributed to Gabriel, " Hail, thou unsown field; hail, thou unconsumed Bush; hail, thou unsearchable depth," &c.

Mr. F. C. Conybeare has kindly supplied me with the information that in ancient Armenian MSS. it is easy to see that hymns originally addressed to the Church, and epithets applied to her as the Bride of Christ, the Lady Catholice, were afterwards transferred and applied to His mother. In one of these (Vienna, Mechitarist, 133, f. 190, and British Museum, Orient. 2609, f. 205, and 2608, f. 217), the Church is called "the Throne of fourfold shape, adorned with stones, holy and twelve (the apostles), all-blessed Virgin in corruptible, Mother of God," and she is asked to intercede for men. She is "built up out of the rib of the Saviour." Early Armenian writers certainly extol and pray to the Church as a Virgin. They identify her not only with the throne of God, but also with the booth of Abraham, the Ark, Aaron’s Tabernacle, and Solomon s Temple. Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, descends to espouse her. The union takes place at His baptism, John being the "friend of the Bridegroom." She becomes the mother of many children, still remaining a virgin, and is taken up to dwell with her Spouse in heaven, an event which afterwards became the Assumption of the Virgin Mary ; so that as late as the seventeenth century, a Latin woodcut representing the latter was mistaken by Armenian priests for the former.

In Armenian hymns it is often extremely difficult to discriminate whether it is the Virgin Church or the Virgin Mary who is being invoked. This practice Mr. Conybeare has traced back to the beginning of the eighth century. The same confusion of thought is attributed to the Paulicians and other early heretics by Photius and others. Holy Scripture is quite free from any such ambiguity. In the Epistles of Paul, the Church alone is called the Bride of Christ, and in the Book of Revelation, as the New Jerusalem, she descends as a bride adorned for her husband.

Mr. Conybeare has found in a Bodleian Codex of Gregory Arsharuni, as well as in the Bodleian Armenian Menologion, a statement that Gregory the Illuminator altered the feasts which had been kept in honour of heathen gods to commemorations of events in Christian history ; amongst these being the summer feast of Aphrodite, which he turned into the Annunciation of the Theotokos. It falls on Navasard 15th, which in A.D. 432 coincided with August 25th. The Armenians have a story about roses springing up in the footsteps of the goddess. Compare with this an Ethiopian story told by Budge (Miracles of the B.V.M., pp. 38-40), of a boy named Zacharias, who offered garlands of fifty roses to the Virgin Mary, and many years after wards, when he grew up and became a monk, the prayers that fell from his mouth turned into roses.

The gradual progress of Mariolatry in the Syrian Church is instructive. We look in vain for any mention of Mary in the oldest documents of that community that have come down to us, such as the Doctrine of Addai, or the Martyrologies which form the upper writing of the Lewis Palimpsest. In the works of Aphraates (fourth century), Mary is only mentioned a few times as the vehicle of the Incarnation, and once (De Humilitate) as a pattern of humility, the epithet kecharitomenebeing translated by a word meaning "blessed." St. Ephraim (fourth century) in a hymn (xxxviii.), says that the Son of Mary bruised the devil as a serpent; being a Syrian, he understood Hebrew better than the authors of the Roman Breviary. Theodore of Mopsuestia (fifth century), in his Commentary on St. John, expresses no veneration for Mary in the passages where it would have been appropriate. In a prayer of Balai, she is said to have been the Burning Bush, Jacob’s Ladder, David’s Ark of the Covenant, and Ezekiel’s closed and sealed gate. Similar expressions are used by Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa. He defends in an able sermon the term Theotokos, Mother of God, about which the feud was raging between the Nestorians and the Jacobites. Among the latter we may notice Isaak of Antioch, who contrasts Mary with Eve, and whose hymn in her praise has nothing idolatrous in it, and little unscriptural, except the statement that she was fasting when she received the Annunciation; and Philoxenus, who, after anathematising the Nestorians, and calling Mary the "God-bearer," yet, in his Discourse on Poverty asserts very strongly that our Lord was not under obedience to His mother after His baptism, as evidenced by His conduct at Cana, and His reply to her attempted remonstrance (Matt. xii. 48). (See Budge, Discourses of Philoxenus, pp. 240-43. ) Also Jacob of Serug, who, as well as St. Ephraim, says that there was never a spot in her soul. Jacob is not consistent on this point, for he says elsewhere that the Holy Ghost freed her from every sinful desire, and drove sin away from her, which we take to be the truth.

In ancient Nestorian Liturgies (see Budge), the Virgin is seldom mentioned, except that on the holy altar there is to be a remembrance of Mary the Mother of Christ. In modern ones (see Malan), she is requested to pray for us, and God is asked that she may do so. Her body is said to be a storehouse of help to us, and it is said that the Lord preserveth the faithful by her prayers. In Jacobite liturgies she receives more honour, being called Theotokos, Deipara, Mother of Life, and her intercession being invoked for the living and the dead. The Maronites go a step further. They excommunicate those who oppose the worship of Mary’s images (Office for the Ordination of Priests, Morinus, Assemani, part iii. p. 21).

The ancient liturgies of the Coptic Church have very small traces of Mariolatry. That of St. Mark, supposed to be the source of all the others, has hardly any, if we may judge from a MS. of the thirteenth century, translated and published by Malan. In the Liturgy of St. Basil, God is asked to have pity on people and to remember them through the prayers and supplications which Our Lady of us all, the Mother of God, offers for us at all times. That of St. Gregory has a similar expression. In the modern Coptic Liturgy, as translated by John, Marquis of Bute, sentiments of this kind are more frequent. At Morning Prayer the priest censes the picture of the Blessed Virgin thrice, and says, "Hail to thee, Mary, the fair dove," &c. Her intercession is continually invoked.

In the Ethiopian Church, to judge by Lady Meux MSS., published by Dr. Wallis Budge, the practice of Mariolatry is more offensively heathen than in any other. In some of the legends the Virgin acts in a highly immoral manner, such as a Greek goddess might well emulate. We have also statements like these: "Mary’s Resurrection was like unto the Resurrection of Christ" (Budge, p. 157). Mary existed in the body of Adam in the form of a white pearl, which shone in his right side (p. 203). Inside the Holy of Holies was a figure of Mary, at the place where the holy ark rested, and Solomon made two cherubim to overshadow her (p. 204). One MS., No. 2A, says, " For the sake of Mary the whole world was made," "Our Lady Mary spake by the Prophets," " Our Lady Mary preached by the Apostles," " Our Lady Mary giveth praise with the mouth of all creation," " Our Lady Mary is the redemption for sinners," "Have no doubt whatsoever but that it is she who bringeth you salvation." The 15th and 16th of Nahasse is celebrated as the preparation of her body for burial and as her Ascension. Hanna, her mother, is also deified. Hanna gave birth to one daughter (Budge, pp. 173, 178), forgetting that the Virgin Mary must have had at least one sister (John xix. 25).

We conclude with an extract from the Apocryphal History of John the son of Zebedee, translated from the Syriac (ed. W. Wright, p. 9). John is approaching Ephesus. "And with terror taking hold on him, he came and reached the southern gate, and lifted up his eyes and saw; and lo, the image of the idol Artemis was standing over the gate, painted by them with paints, with gold laid upon her lips, and a veil of fine linen hanging over her face, and a lamp burning before her ... be went round and saw thus at all the gates." [Margaret Dunlap Gibson]

Mother of God

MOTHER OF GOD. A title given to St. Mary. In the fifth century there sprang up a fierce controversy as to the manner in which the divinity and humanity were united in Christ. Theodore of Mopsuesta, and, following him, Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, explained the mystery by saying that a child was born like other children of men, and that subsequently the divinity united itself to Him. Christ, therefore, consisted of two persons, one human, one divine. The error that they made was in not distinguishing between persons and natures. Our Lord has two natures, divine and human, but they co-exist in one Person.

This truth was insisted on with over-great vehemency and violence by Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus. Resolved to bring home their error to their adversaries, and to stamp it as heresy, the orthodox party adopted the word Theotokos, which Nestorius had already refused to accept, as a test of the true doctrine, just as the Council of Nicsca had adopted the word homoousios, or consubstantial, as a test whereby to try and to reject Arianism. The word Theotokos means, " She who brought forth Him who was at His birth God." The title was applied to the Lord’s mother, not at all with the purpose of doing honour to her—that was not thought of—but of maintaining the true doctrine respecting the unity of Person in Christ.

But the days were becoming evil. Since the gradual extinction of paganism, men had lost their horror of paying adoration to dead men and women, and the word Theotokos, becoming the watch word of Cyril’s party against Nestorianism, soon was misinterpreted and misapplied. Men forgot that it had been insisted on only to teach a truth regarding Christ’s Person, and looked upon it as a title of honour, devised by the Council, for St. Mary.

Already St. Mary had been venerated by Gnostics and Collyridians, who had composed the apocryphal gospels of the Birth and of the Death of Mary, and had offered her cakes in token of adoration. But the Church for four centuries had looked with detestation and contempt on these heretical books and practices. "The whole thing," said Bishop Epiphanius, "is foolish and strange and is a device and deceit of the devil. Let Mary be in honour. Let the Lord be worshipped" (Haer., lxxxix.). But, as a result of the Nestorian controversies, veneration of the Theotokos began to spring up within the Church also.

The loose translation of the word as "Mother of God," gives to the unlearned the idea that Christ in some way derived His divine as well as His human nature from her. The Madonna and Child became a symbol in art of Anti-Nestorian orthodoxy, and soon the mother overshadowed the Child.

So far was Christian sentiment perverted through a mistaken apprehension of the purpose of a word which in itself bad no superstitious or idolatrous meaning, that in the sixth century the Gnostic and Collyridian fables respecting St. Mary were brought bodily over into the Church, without protest or remonstrance, by Gregory of Tours, and from him were handed on to Andrew of Crete (a degenerate countryman of Epiphanius) in the seventh century, and again from him to John Damascene in the eighth century, after which they became the basis of what Lord Lindsay has called the "Christian mythology" of the Middle Ages.

This seems to have been the course by which the worship of St. Mary, recognised and condemned by the Church for four centuries as heretical, became the faith of the later Church—a worship which, increasing age by age, has grown to the portentous dimensions that we at present witness in the practice of the modern Roman and (in less degree) Greek Churches, and threatens to supersede, if it has not superseded, love and devotion to Christ as the Saviour and Redeemer, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, all which titles are attributed to St. Mary by the appointed Doctor of the Roman Church, St. Alfonso de’ Liguori, in his Glories of Mary. Leo XIII. was not a whit behind St. Alfonso in his devotion to her, and "Marian Congresses in Italy and France are day by day pushing her worship into wilder and wilder extremes. [Frederick Meyrick]

So far from Theotokos being identical in meaning with "Mother of God," the Liturgy of St. James (Neale, Greek Texts, p. 65), calls her ten Theotokon…kai metera tou Theou emon. Neale, in his supplementary volume of Translations, p. 55, indeed translates both phrases by the same words, and says in a footnote, " It is impossible in English, without tautology, to repeat the metera tou Theou emon after having already given the Theotokon." But that is "taking away the key of knowledge " with a vengeance. The "Office of the Prothesis," also given by Neale (Translations, 7th edit., p. 185), speaks of the "parents of God, Joachim and Anna;" were they also Theotokoi?

At first the Latin Church accepted the Greek word without translating it like "Amen," or "Jehovah." Pope Leo changed the word into Genetrix. Ephraim of Theopolis translated the phrase back again into Meter Theou, adding that "Leo was the first person to call Mary the Mother of God ; which none of the Fathers before him had done." The Roman edition of the Councils changed the word theotokos into the newly coined " Mother of God," and Baluzius the editor says apologetically, " Who doubts that this is a good interpretation ? " (Tyler's Worship of the Virgin, p. 319). [J. T. Tomlinson]

Church in Your Pocket? Facebook Multimedia Church to Launch

Thou shalt love thy neighbor – all 600 million of them?

Hosting the first-ever interactive service on Facebook, St. Pixels, an online 3D church, is redefining the way most people worship.

“Love it or hate it, Facebook is where people are in 2011,” said St. Pixels pioneer Mark Howe in a statement. “If the Gospel is for today’s connected culture, it has to find a distinctive but culturally-appropriate place within social networking.”

Designed by Howe, with additional programming by Barry Wickett of Dark Green Media and artwork by Michael Evans and Anthony Ramm of Carousel Digital, the multimedia church is hoping to proclaim Christ through new media outlets.

Behind computer screens and iPhones, worshippers will have the opportunity to listen to Bible readings and a sermon, sing along to hymns and key in prayer requests.

They’ll even be given a chance to weigh in with an “amen” or “zzzz” via a real-time feedback meter they can click.

To read more, click here.

A ghost at the royal wedding

I'm not a monarchist, but I am a liturgy buff. So when I watched a recap of the royal wedding, I was struck by the fact that, except for the omission of a promise by the bride to obey her husband, the language of the vows and the archbishop's exhortations was old-school, from the Book of Common Prayer, not some newfangled order of service.

I was especially interested in the reference to the third person of the Trinity as "Holy Ghost," not "Holy Spirit." Holy Ghost is how he (it?) was introduced to me in Catholic school and there was much levity about whether the Holy Ghost knew Casper the Friendly Ghost. (Years later, one of my college professors told us a mouldy joke about the way a beatnik (!) referred to the Trinity: Daddio, Laddio and Spook.)

To read more, click here.

Related article: A modern service for a modern girl... straightforward, safe and tasteful

The royal wedding: joy, hope and John Milton

Each element in a royal occasion like yesterday's wedding in Westminster Abbey is iconic. The music is chosen with particular care from the varied treasures of Anglican tradition to express the characters involved, their faith, and their place in the national drama.

When I worked there and we came to review the funeral service for the Queen Mother, we knew we must represent the fortitude of this remarkable Queen consort through the war. So we inserted into the prayers an ancient text to music by Sir William Harris. "Holy is the true light … lending radiance to them that endured in the heat of the conflict."

For the coronation's 50th anniversary we needed to capture the Queen's sense of self-sacrificial calling. We asked Jonathan Harvey to set the prayer "Remember, O Lord, what thou hast wrought in us and not what we deserve: and as thou hast called us to thy service, make us worthy of our calling …" His music embodied the monarch's aspiration to kingly, priestly service.

The choices yesterday were made with care and imagination.

To read more, click here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Evaluating Group Discussions

How well do you practice these principles of great small-group discussion?

The first small-group discussion I led took approximately 15 minutes. No one had explained to me how to get a discussion going. Instead I was handed a list of questions and Scriptures to look up. My goal was to get through all of it as quickly as possible so that we could have our snacks and go home.

Since then I've learned a few principles about how to lead a good discussion, several of which are listed below. Use this assessment to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a discussion leader.

To read more, click here.

The Missional Manifesto

Today, I want to point you to a newly released Missional Manifesto.

You can find the full document here. Our purpose is to encourage and bring clarity-- to encourage believers to live missional lives and to clarify what we mean when we use the term "missional."

As you can tell from the definition at Wikipedia, there is no clear definition of the word. That should not shock us-- watch people debate words like grace, justice, and gospel. But, Alan Hirsch and I wanted to assemble a group of people to help us "frame" a document that might speak into what we mean when we use the word. Others will use it differently-- fair enough. However, this is what a group of Christians put forward to say what they mean when the use the term--and to encourage others to do the same.

We say in the preamble:

God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory. The concept missional epitomizes this idea. This manifesto seeks to serve the church by clarifying its calling and helping it theologically understand and practically live out God's mission in the world today. Although it is frequently stated "God's church has a mission," according to missional theology, a more accurate expression is "God's mission has a church" (Ephesians 3:7-13).

Properly understanding the meaning of missional begins with recognizing God's missionary nature. The Father is the source of mission, the Son is the embodiment of that mission, and mission is done in the power of the Spirit. By nature, God is the "sending one" who initiates the redemption of His whole creation. Jesus consistently spoke of Himself as being "sent" in John's gospel and subsequently commissioned His disciples for this same purpose (John 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25). As the "sent" people of God, the church is the instrument of His mission (John 20:21).

To read more, click here.

Bible Story Telling

Notes on the application of Bible Story Telling for evangelism and Christian formation

When you talk about "Bible Story Telling" as a means of evangelizing and discipling people, initially the discussion turns to "illiterate" people in Third World nations who either have no written language and, therefore, no Bible or people in the same part of the world who were never taught to read. Reaching these cultures is most quickly accomplished by training evangelists and teachers in the art of Bible Story Telling in order to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. It's not uncommon for these evangelists to master up to 125 Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. In essence they "carry" their Bible internally and, as participants in oral cultures, often master the stories word for word in amazing detail. And that's a good thing... many would be beaten if seen carrying a Bible or religious literature. For them Bible Story Telling is an inexpensive and often "viral" way of communicating the message of God's Saving Truth for the World. Even Wycliffe Bible Translators is exploring the use of this method to convey the Gospel while their translators perform the laborious task of Bible translation.

Sadly, many assume Bible Story Telling is simply a method that's only applicable in the Third World. That misunderstanding is a dangerous one for a variety of reasons:

1. It assumes our own listeners are "literate" and enjoy learning by reading. Increasingly that's just not true.

2. It assumes that we as communicators of God's Word are interesting enough to hold our hearer's attention in the television, computer and video dominated world through traditional "preaching". That's not always so.

To read more, click here.

BIBLE STORYING, Article 5: limitations of Bible storying

Among the limitations of Bible Storying: It takes time, especially if many stories are used and the listeners are given an opportunity to participate in the storying session.

There are many stories in the Bible; one list of popular stories includes 150. Yet not all of these are needed for witnessing. Some stories are better for certain peoples, while some are best not used until a people become more mature in their faith and can receive the stories without reacting negatively against the Bible and its message because of their misunderstanding the stories.

Stories take time to prepare and learn. This is a problem for the occasional Bible storyer, one who is preparing to go on a mission trip and will only be with a people a short time.

What can be done?

To read more, click here.

British tradition & a lesson for Americans

I turned on the television Friday with the intent of watching the morning news. Instead, I was confronted with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I switched channels not once, not twice, but three times and I soon discovered every major network was focused on the Royal Wedding.

Since there was no escaping the regal nuptials, I decided to watch for a bit. I was immediately struck by the pomp and protocol of the proceedings. Rather than a celebrity circus, which is what I expected, what I encountered was an elegant affair deeply rooted in tradition.

The Royal Wedding was much more than a regal photo op. It was even more than two people exchanging wedding vows. It was a celebration of the monarchy -- the commemoration of British tradition.

While I may not fully understand the British devotion to the monarchy, I can appreciate the Brits' desire to cultivate a tradition that has historical relevance and meaning. Though the monarchy is mostly symbolic these days, symbols -- especially those anchored in tradition -- do serve a purpose and do convey meaning.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines tradition as "the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation." It is derived from the Latin "tradere" or "traderer" meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.

Tradition is important to a culture. It helps to give a nation a sense of historical roots. Tradition celebrates meaningful realities and unites generations around shared values.

According to author Jim Black, tradition is not just important, it is vital. In his book, "When Nations Die," Black identifies 10 areas that signal a culture is on the brink of self-destruction. One of the danger signs a society is in trouble is the "loss of respect for tradition."

"What gives [national] life meaning is not our individuality and independence but the fact that we are part of the greater tapestry of culture," Black writes. "Culture and tradition are interwoven at every stage of ... national life, and to assault one is do damage to the other."

England, as well much of western civilization, is in the midst of a great cultural upheaval that seeks to divorce current culture from its past. In such a time as this, the Royal Wedding is a sign of health for the United Kingdom.

To read more, click here.

Traditionalist Anglicans to convene in Victoria

Traditional Anglican Church leaders from around the world will meet June 1 to 4 in Victoria, B.C., at St. Ann’s Chapel to “renew the spirit of St. Louis” and encourage a united orthodoxy through the celebration of the traditional Anglican heritage.

The spirit of St. Louis refers not to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic plane but to a 1977 Missouri congress attended by nearly 2,000 traditionalist Anglicans. They produced a document called “the Affirmation of St. Louis,” which spelled out the doctrines of orthodox Anglicanism, dating back to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion that defined the doctrinal position of the Church of England in the 16th century. “Many of the breakaway traditional Anglican churches attending subscribed to that,” says Allan Singleton Wood, chair of the 2011 Victoria conference.

To read more, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: First Ordinations of the Pastoral Clergy for the Ordinariate

At the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, two distinguished clergy formerly from the Anglican tradition were ordained to the diaconate for the Catholic Church in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, by the Rt Revd Alan Hopes, Bishop of Cuncacestre and Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Westminster, standing in for Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, at his express request, on behalf of the Ordinary, the Rt Revd Mgr Keith Newton, Prot.Ap.

First to be ordained was the Revd Professor Allen Brent, DD, former Professor of History at the James Cook University, Queensland, Australia and currently Senior Member of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. He is an internationally renowned scholar of Patristic theology and early Church history. He was born in the East End, baptised in the Church of England was also once a member of the Baptist[s] before serving for many years as an Anglican priest. He is also a liturgical and ecumenical scholar, making important contributions to the debates over the influence of Newman in the development of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century and the significance of the revised Roman rite drawing on the Hyppolytan apostolic tradition for Christian Unity. Dr Brent was supported at his ordination by his wife, Cathy. Following his ordination, he was invested in the stole and dalmatic with the help of Fr David Paul, parish priest of St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich, and the Revd Dr Michael Robson, Dean, Praelector and Director of Studies in Theology at St Edmund’s College.

Second to be ordained was the Revd David Skeoch. A native of County Durham and graduate of the University of Oxford (Christ Church), for many years he was Chaplain to the Rt Hon and Rt Revd Graham Leonard while he was Anglican Bishop of Truro and then London, before serving for nearly two decades as Vicar of St Gabriel’s, Warwick Square, in Pimlico, London. He was also an Honorary Canon of the Diocese of The Murray, Australia. Recently he moved to Suffolk and was received into the Catholic Church, following in the footsteps of Mgr Leonard, along with a small group of lay people he had been ministering to in Ipswich since retiring from St Gabriel’s. Following his ordination, he was invested in the stole and dalmatic with the help of Canon Stuart Wilson, rector of St Mary’s Church in Chelsea and an old friend from the time they once served together in the Anglican Diocese of London, and Fr Mark Woodruff, priest director of the League and Fr Skeoch’s assistant curate at St Gabriel’s in 1988-89. Fr Mark commented....

To read more, click here.

To view photographs of the ordinations, click here.

Related article: Following Pope Benedict's model of ecumenism

Royal Wedding: High Church But Not Anglo-Catholic

By the book and ''explicitly Christian''. That was the assessment by one of Australia's Anglican leaders of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.

The Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said the wedding ceremony - conducted to a revised 1928 Church of England rite - was ''in a way more Christian than it needed to be''.

''It was not sentimental about marriage,'' said Bishop Forsyth. ''The [biblical] reading was not gushy and, rather than apologise for being Christian, the service was generous.''

To read more, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Vatican sees no future for married clergy in Anglican Ordinariate

Married priests will be only a temporary aberration within the Anglican Ordinariate, says Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state. Speaking in an interview in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and in recently published extracts from his forthcoming book, A Great Heart: Homage to John Paul II, Bertone said that although already married Anglican priests will be acceptable under the ordinariate, “the enduring value of celibacy will be reaffirmed, necessitating that for the future, unmarried priests will be the norm in such ordinariates.” Until then, the procedures developed by Pope John Paul II for the reception of already married Anglican clergy will apply.

To read more, click here.

Is the ACNA really GAFCON in North America?

By Robin G. Jordan

In a post on the American Anglican Council Face Book home page on April 28, 2011, Robert Lundy, AAC Communications Officer, made the following statement: “The GAFCON Primates have recognized the ACNA and its Archbishop. If there were any substantive issues and disagreement between ACNA and GAFCON, the Primates wouldn't have taken these steps.”

Is that really the case? Or was the GAFCON Primates’ recognition of the ACNA motivated largely by political expediency? The Common Cause Partnership had formed the ACNA in response to the Primates’ call for a new “orthodox” Anglican province, a call which had all the earmarks of having been prompted by the CCP. The Primates were not in a position to say, “No, that is not what we had in mind.” They had little choice but endorse the ACNA or play into the hands of the liberals. Or so they feared, a fear which has kept evangelical leaders outside North America who are not happy with developments in the ACNA from criticizing the Anglican province wannabe.

In an interview with Greg Griffith of Stand Firm on June 11, 2008, Bishop Jack Iker made this statement:

GAFCON has a definite evangelical flavor about it, and this has been so from the very beginning with the selection of the planning group. However, the leadership of the movement is committed to being sensitive to the needs of Anglo-Catholics in the formation of the province in North America that is now underway. As a minority group in the Communion, Anglo-Catholics have often been ignored, ridiculed or criticized, and it is understandable that many of us have certain misgivings about the future of the GAFCON movement based upon past realities. That being said, while it is clear that there is no future in The Episcopal Church for traditional Anglo-Catholics, there will be a secure, respected place for us in the province being birthed. Our theological perspective and liturgical practices will be permitted, protected and honored. Our succession of Catholic bishops will be secured.

Bishop Iker went on to say:

It is important to remember that the direction of the province that is envisioned will be under the Common Cause Partnership, and for this reason, we must look primarily to the wording of Theological Statement agreed upon by Common Cause some time ago. There are some slight differences in wording and emphasis in that document from the final statement that came out of the Jerusalem meeting. Suffice it to say that Anglo-Catholics in the future will continue to regard the 1662 Prayer Book, the 39 Articles, liturgical practices, and the Councils of the patristic church just as the Oxford Movement did under Pusey, Keble, and Newman, our fathers in the faith.

Bishop Iker then drew attention to what would become clauses 5, 6, and 7 of the Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America:

Here are a few quotes from the Common Cause Partnership Theological Statement that deserve careful comparison with the relevant parallel parts of the final Statement on the Global Anglican Future.

"5. Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.

6. We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which7. We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief."

A careful comparative reading of the two similar documents will be illuminating. I would conclude with the following quote from the Common Cause Theological Statement….

Bishop Iker then quoted the following two paragraphs from the Common Cause Theological Statements.

"The Anglican Communion," Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, "has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning." It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God's Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to "the faith once delivered to the saints."

To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity but a distinct way of being a "Mere Christian," at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled."

This is where we are headed with Common Cause, and Anglo-Catholics can joyfully and confidently be a part of the same.

These two paragraphs were not adopted as a part of the ACNA Fundamental Declarations. However, they are posted on the ACNA website as if they are part of those declarations.

Bishop Iker’s comments in this interview suggest a willingness on the part of the GAFCON Primates to overlook substantive issues and disagreements between the ACNA and GAFCON for political reasons.

In his article, “The ACNA Constitution: In Line with the Covenant,” Ephraim Radner makes several telling observations. First in regards to clauses 6 and 7 of the Fundamental Declarations he notes:

The identification of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal, and the Thirty-Nine Articles as “standards” and “principles” has struck some as overly and perhaps impossibly precise. After all, have not Anglicans, through the Lambeth Conference now over 100 years ago, made formal the lack of explicitness with which these formularies are to be held as standards for all Anglicans. at least as it determines Communion-related “Anglican” identity? Yet we note the care with which the Constitution has cloaked these standards with a certain indefiniteness: “We receive the Book of Common Prayer…as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline” and as “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship”; “we receive the Thirty-Nine Articles…, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles…”

Radner further notes:

The clear implication is that there may be other legitimate “standards”, and that the BCP of 1662 is rather one among many.… Furthermore, a “tradition of worship” is itself a loose referent and already indicates an acceptance that the BCPs of the Reformation and post-Reformation are no longer in explicit use among many Anglicans. Finally, it is hardly constrictive, let alone historically odd, that the Thirty-Nine Articles would be received as holding doctrine appropriate to its time of composition, that continues to express certain “principles” that cohere with “authentic Anglicanism”. For the Constitution does not claim that the Articles articulate necessarily all such principles, exhaustively, or straightforwardly (since “principles” can only be gleaned from historical records aimed at local moments and controversies), nor that all “authentic Anglicanism” is bound by them in any exhaustive way.

This observation stands in pointed contrast to that of the GAFCON Theological Resource Group, which in its commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration, Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, emphasizes that adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles “is constitutive of Anglican identity.”

Radner goes on to note the difference in the Constitution’s language from the Jerusalem Declaration (Clause 3) regarding the Thirty-Nine Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today”. For the GAFCON Theological Resource Group’s exposition of this clause, readers are referred to Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, pages 35-40. The Constitution’s language, Radner notes, is less explicit than that of the Jerusalem Declaration and evidences “a move toward indefiniteness…, one that is clearly by design.”

Radner also notes:

The Constitution “affirms” the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration (1.10), but such “affirmation” is itself general and necessarily loose in its meaning.

While the ACNA may have adopted indefinite language regarding the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles in clauses 6 and 7 of the Fundamental Declarations, it did not adopt such language regarding the historic episcopate in clause 3 of the Fundamental Declarations. It sided with the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholic ideologues on the question of whether bishops are essential to the Church rather than taking a position of neutrality on an issue that historically has divided Anglicans.

Between the adoption of the provisional constitution and canons of the ACNA and the drafting of the final constitution and canons the ACNA’s affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration was dropped from the Fundamental Declarations in Article I of the Constitution where it had formed clause 8 of the Fundamental Declarations. It was added to the Preamble of the Constitution where it simply serves as a part of the explanation for the establishment of the ACNA. Its relocation reduced it from general to token in nature.

An examination of the constitutions and canons of a number of GAFCON member provinces reveals that they contain no provision that is the equivalent of clause 3 of the Fundamental Declarations of the ACNA’s Constitution. At most they affirm the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon as the norm for Anglicans. They, however, avoid the divisive issue of whether bishops are of the esse, or essence, of the Church.

The same provinces, with the exception of the Anglican Churches of Kenya and Rwanda, adopt very straightforward language in their affirmation of the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies. At the same time they reserve the right to adopt supplemental doctrinal statements. Their position regarding the Thirty-Nine Articles is consistent with the position of the Jerusalem Declaration laid out in Clause 4 of that document. In its commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration the GAFCON Theological Group points to our attention:

They have long been recognized as the doctrinal standard of Anglicanism, alongside the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.

The Anglican Church of Kenya accepts the “doctrine, sacraments, and discipline of the Church” as they are set forth in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the Ordinal (1661). It, however, make no mention of the Thirty-Nine Articles in its constitution and canons.

The Anglican Church of Rwanda in its constitution affirms the doctrine of all three historic Anglican formularies but qualifies its reception of the Thirty-Nine Articles with these words, “as adapted through the ages.” An examination of the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda is very revealing. The Anglican Church of Rwanda has not only adopted the language, norms, and principles of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law but also its doctrine. A number of the provisions of its canons affirm the dogmas of the Council of Trent and reject the doctrines of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Rwandan constitution and canons were largely the work of AMiA Canon Kevin Donlan, a former Roman Catholic priest who studied canon law at Cardiff University. Donlan was also a member of the CCP Governance Task Force that drafted the ACNA Constitution and Canons. The ACNA Canons, like the Rwandan canons, show the influence of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law.

The GAFCON Primates have not uttered a peep about the Rwandan canons’ repudiation of the doctrines of the Thirty-Nine Articles and their espousal of the dogmas of the Council of Trent. It challenges all credulity that this major departure from “the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism” has escaped the attention of the GAFCON Primates. A more credible explanation is that they are choosing to overlook it for political expediency’s sake.

In their “Response to the offer of an Apostolic Constitution to Anglicans” the GAFCON Primates made the claim that the Pope’s offer “reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith, moral teaching and global mission that we proclaimed in the Jerusalem Declaration on the Global Anglican Future….” This statement may be interpreted one of two ways. As the Church Society Council in its letter to the GAFCON Primates stated, “authentic, historic Anglicanism, does not agree with Roman Catholicism on fundamental truths and in particular on the nature of authority and the means of salvation.” The GAFCON Primates must either be following in the steps of the ecumenical movement and the Catholic and Evangelicals Together movement “in misrepresenting Anglican teaching and in using ambiguous language in pursuing structural rather than confessional unity” or their statement was motivated by political expediency. In either case, in their treatment of disparate theologies as if there was no disagreement between them, they are not proving themselves to be the arbiters and champions of Anglican orthodoxy that Anglicans in the northern hemisphere have been led to believe that they are

Is the ACNA really GAFCON in North America? I would suggest that this question has two answers. If we are speaking in terms of the ACNA fully representing the tenets outlined in the Jerusalem Declaration and explained in Being Faithful, the answer is “no.” If we are speaking in terms of the ACNA reflecting the permissive attitude that permits an Anglican province that affirms the dogmas of the Council of Trent to claim to be “orthodox” along with Anglican provinces that affirm the doctrines of the Thirty-Nine Articles, interpreted in their plain and intended sense, then the answer is “yes.”

However, this permissive attitude goes only so far and in a particular direction. The ACNA comprehends Anglo-Catholics and those willing to accept or tolerate Anglo-Catholic doctrine on the apostolic succession, episcopacy, ordination, and the sacraments. But it does not comprehend those who uphold the teaching of the English Reformers and classical Anglicanism on these issues.

The ACNA has erected a special non-geographic diocese for traditionalist Anglo-Catholics associated with Forward in Faith in North America. It has done nothing for conservative evangelicals desiring to preserve the Protestant and Reformed character of authentic historic Anglicanism: It has shown no inclination to give them a judicatory of their own or to exempt them from the subscription requirements of the ACNA Constitution and Canons that force them to declare unreserved adherence to doctrines that are, from a historical Anglican perspective, contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which the Jerusalem Declaration upholds as authoritative for Anglicans today as God’s Word is authoritative, deriving their authority from God’s Word, states: ”Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so 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.” As long as the ACNA takes this attitude toward conservative evangelicals in North America, Anglicans in and outside of North America who are committed to the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies should think twice about recognizing the ACNA as GAFCON in North America.

Meet the Millennials

The Millennials are coming! And if you've sampled the literature about them, you're likely a little scared. Restless, entitled, bloated self-esteem, desultory work patterns, twitter-sized attention spans—pick your pejorative. Commentators have slung them all at those born between 1980 and 2000.

But the ominous rumblings obscure a more complex reality. In The Millennials: Connecting to American's Largest Generation (B&H Books) Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, and his son Jess W. Rainer, release findings from 1,200 interviews with Millennials and offer a more balanced view.

Turns out there are positive characteristics among those who comprise this demographic bulge. The book is written to include a secular readership, but has important implications for anyone who will minister with and to Millennials. And since there are 78 million Millennials—America's largest generation yet—that pretty much includes all of us.

To read more, click here.

From the Pen of J. C. Ryle: Prove All Things

"Prove all things—hold fast that which is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21

You live in days when the text before your eyes is one of the first importance. The truths it contains are especially truths for the times. Give me your attention for a few minutes, and I will try to show you what I mean.

There were three great doctrines or principles which won the battle of the Protestant Reformation:

first, the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture

secondly, the right of private judgment

thirdly, justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law.

These three principles were the keys of the whole controversy between the Reformers and the Church of Rome. Keep firm hold of them when you argue with a Roman Catholic, and your position is unassailable; no weapon that the Church of Rome can forge against you shall prosper. Give up any one of them, and your cause is lost. Like Samson, with his hair shorn, your strength is gone. Like the Spartans, betrayed at Thermopylae, you are outflanked and surrounded. You cannot maintain your ground. Resistance is useless. Sooner or later you will have to lay down your arms, and surrender at discretion. Remember this.

The Roman Catholic controversy is upon you once more. You must put on the old armor, if you would not have your faith overthrown. The sufficiency of Holy Scripture, the right of private judgment, justification by faith alone—these are the three great principles to which you must always cling. Grasp them firmly, and never let them go. Reader, one of the three great principles to which I have referred appears to me to stand forth in the verse of Scripture which heads this tract—I mean the right of private judgment. I wish to say something to you about that principle.

The Holy Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, says to us, "Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good." In these words you have two great truths:

I. The right, duty, and necessity of private judgment. "Prove all things."

II. The duty and necessity of keeping firm hold upon truth. "Hold fast that which is good."

I propose to dwell a little on both these heads.

I. Let me speak first, of the right, duty, and necessity of private judgment. "Prove all things." When I say the right of private judgment, I mean that every individual Christian has a right to judge for himself by the Word of God, whether that which is put before him as religious truth, is God's truth, or is not. When I say the duty of private judgment, I mean that God requires every Christian man to use the right of which I have just spoken—to compare man's words and man's writings with God's revelation, and to make sure that he is not deluded and taken in by false teaching. And when I say the necessity of private judgment, I mean this—that it is absolutely needful for every Christian who loves his soul and would not be deceived, to exercise that right, and discharge that duty to which I have referred; seeing that experience shows that the neglect of private judgment has always been the cause of immense evils in the Church of Christ!

Now the Apostle Paul urges all these three points upon your notice when he uses those remarkable words, "Prove all things." I ask your particular attention to that expression. In every point of view it is most weighty and instructive. Here, you will remember, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Thessalonians, to a Church which he himself had founded. Here is an inspired Apostle writing to young inexperienced Christians, writing to the whole professing Church in a certain city, containing laity as well as clergy, writing too with especial reference to matters of doctrine and preaching, as we know by the verse preceding the text: "Despise not prophesyings." And yet mark what he says: "Prove all things." He does not say, "Whatever apostles, whatever evangelists, pastors and teachers, whatever your leaders, whatever your ministers tell you is truth--that you are to believe." No! he says, "Prove all things." He does not say, "Whatever the universal Church pronounces true--that you are to hold." No! he says, "Prove all things."

The principle laid down is this, "Prove all things by the Word of God. All ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices—prove all by the Word of God. Measure all by the measure of the Bible. Compare all with the standard of the Bible. Weigh all in the balances of the Bible. Examine all by the light of the Bible. Test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which can abide the fire of the Bible--you are to receive, hold, believe and obey. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible--you are to reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away."

Reader, this is private judgment. This is the right you are to exercise if you love your soul. You are not to believe things in religion merely because they are said by Popes or Cardinals—by Bishops or Priests—by Presbyters or Deacons—by Churches, Councils, or Synods—by Fathers, Puritans, or Reformers. You are not to argue, "Such and such things must be true--because these men say so." You are not to do so. You are to prove all things by the Word of God.

I know such doctrine sounds shocking in some men's ears. But I write it down advisedly, and believe it cannot be disproved. I want to encourage no man in ignorant presumption or ignorant contempt. I praise not the man who seldom reads his Bible, and yet sets himself up to pick holes in his minister's sermons. I praise not the man who knows nothing but a few texts in the New Testament, and yet undertakes to settle questions in divinity which have puzzled God's wisest children. But still I hold with Bilson, that "all hearers have both liberty to discern, and a charge to beware of seducers; and woe to them that do it not." And I say with Davenant, "We are not to believe all who undertake to teach in the Church, but must take care and weigh with serious examination, whether their doctrine is sound or not."

Reader, men may dislike the doctrine of private judgment, but there is no doubt that it is continually taught in the Word of God. This is the principle laid down in the eighth chapter of Isaiah, 19th verse. These words were written, remember, at a time when God was more immediately King over His Church, and had more direct communication with it than He has now. They were written at a time when there were men upon earth who had direct revelations from God. Yet what does Isaiah say? "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light or truth in them." If this be not private judgment what is?

This again is the principle laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember what He says: "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruit." (Matt. 7:15.) How is it possible that men shall know these false prophets, except they exercise their private judgment as to what their fruits are?

This is the practice you find commended in the Bereans, in the Acts of the Apostles. They did not take the Apostle Paul's word for granted, when he came to preach to them. You are told, that they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so," and "therefore," it is said, "many of them believed." (Acts 17:11, 12.) What was this again but private judgment?

"The people of God are called to test the truth, to judge between true and false, between light and darkness. God has made them the promise of His Spirit, and has left unto them His Word. The Christians of Berea, when they heard the preaching of Paul, searched the Scriptures daily, to ascertain whether those things which Paul taught were true. So must you. Give heed to instruction--and yet do not receive any teachings without proof and trial that they are the wholesome doctrine of the Word of God." Jewell.

This is the spirit of the advice given in 1 Cor. 10:15, "I speak as unto wise men—you judge what I say." Coloss. 2:18, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit." 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God." 2 John 10, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house." If these passages do not recommend the use of private judgment, I do not know what words mean. To my mind they seem to say to every individual Christian, "Prove all things."

Reader, whatever men may say against private judgment, you may be sure that it cannot be neglected without immense danger to your soul. You may not like it, but you never know what you may come to, if you refuse to use it! No man can say into what depths of false doctrine you may be drawn—if you will not do what God requires of you, and "Prove all things."

Suppose that, in fear of private judgment, you resolve to believe whatever the Church believes. Where is your security against error? The Church is not infallible. There was a time when almost the whole of Christendom embraced the Arian heresy, and did not acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ to be equal with the Father in all things. There was a time, before the reformation, when the darkness over the face of Europe was a darkness which might be felt. The General Councils of the Church are not infallible. When the whole Church is gathered together in a General Council, what says our Twenty-first Article? "They may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation, have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they he taken out of Holy Scripture."

The particular branches of the Church are not infallible. Anyone of them may err. Many of them have fallen foully, or have been swept away. Where is the Church of Ephesus at this day? Where the Church of Sardis at the present time? Where the Church of Hippo in Africa? Where the Church of Carthage? They are all gone! Not a vestige of any of them is left! Will you then be content to err merely because the Church errs? Will your erring in company with the Church, remove your responsibility for your own soul? Oh, reader, it were surely a thousand times better for a man to stand alone and be saved—than to err in company with the Church, and be lost! It were better to prove all things, and go to heaven—than to say, "I dare not think for myself," and go to hell.

But suppose that, to cut matters short, you resolve to believe whatever your minister believes. Once more I ask, Where is your safety? Where is your security? Ministers are not infallible, any more than Churches. All of them have not the Spirit of God. The very best of them are only men. Call us Bishops, Priests, Deacons, or whatever names you please—we are all earthen vessels. I speak not merely of Popes, who have promulgated awful superstitions and led abominable lives. I would rather point to the very best of Protestants and say, "Beware of looking upon them as infallible—beware of thinking of any man (whoever that man may be)—that he cannot err!"

Luther held to consubstantiation—that was a mighty error. Zwingle, the Swiss Reformer, went on to battle, and died in the fight—that was a mighty error. Calvin, the Geneva Reformer, advised the burning of Servetus—that was a mighty error. Cranmer and Ridley urged the putting of Hooper into prison because of some trifling dispute about vestments—that was a mighty error. Whitgift persecuted the Puritans—that was a mighty error. Wesley and Toplady in the last century, quarreled fiercely about doctrine—that was a mighty error. All these things are warnings—if you will only take them. All say, "Cease from trusting in man." All show us that if a man's religion hangs on ministers, whoever they may be, and not on the Word of God—it hangs on a broken reed!

Never make ministers into Popes. Follow us so far as we follow Christ, but not a hair's breadth further. Believe whatever we can show you out of the Bible, but do not believe a single word more. Neglect the duty of private judgment, and you may find, to your cost, the truth of what Whitby says: The best of overseers do sometimes make oversights. You may live to experience the truth of what the Lord said to the Pharisees: When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch!
Reader, be very sure no man is safe against error, unless he acts on Paul's injunction—unless he "proves all things" by the Word of God. Reader, I have said that it is impossible to overrate the evils that may arise from neglecting to exercise your private judgment. I will go further, and say that it is impossible to overrate the blessings which private judgment has conferred both on the world and on the Church. I ask you to remember that the greatest discoveries in science and in philosophy, have arisen from the use of private judgment. To this we owe the discovery of Galileo, that the earth went round the sun, and not the sun round the earth. To this we owe Columbus' discovery of the new continent of America. To this we owe Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood. To this we owe Jenner's discovery of vaccination. To this we owe the printing press, the steam engine, the power-loom, the electric telegraph, railways, and gas. For all these discoveries we are indebted to men who dared to think for themselves. They were not content with the beaten path of those who had gone before. They were not satisfied with taking for granted that what their fathers believed must be true. They made experiments for themselves. They brought old established theories to the proof; and found that they were worthless. They proclaimed new systems, and invited men to examine them, and test their truth. They bore storms of obloquy and ridicule unmoved. They heard the clamor of prejudiced lovers of old traditions without flinching. And they prospered and succeeded in what they did. We see it now. And we who live in the nineteenth century are reaping the fruit of their use of private judgment.

And, reader, as it has been in science—so also it has been in the history of the Christian religion. The martyrs who stood alone in their day, and shed that blood which has been the seed of Christ's Gospel throughout the world—the Reformers, who, one after another, rose up in their might to enter the lists with the Church of Rome—all did what they did, suffered what they suffered, proclaimed what they proclaimed, simply because they exercised their private judgment about what was Christ's truth.

Private judgment made the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and the Lollards, count not their lives dear to them, rather than believe the doctrines of the Church of Rome. Private judgment made Wyckliffe search the Bible in our land, denounce the Romish Friars, and all their impostures, translate the Scriptures into the vulgar tongue, and become "the morning star" of the Reformation. Private judgment made Luther examine Tetzel's abominable system of indulgences by the light of the Word. Private judgment led him on, step by step, from one thing to another, guided by the same light, until at length the gulf between him and Rome was a gulf that could not be passed, and the Pope's power in Germany was completely broken. Private judgment made our own English Reformers examine for themselves, and inquire for themselves, as to the true nature of that corrupt system under which they had been born and brought up. Private judgment made them cast off the abominations of Popery, and circulate the Bible among the laity. Private judgment made them brake the fetters of tradition, and dare to think for themselves. They refused to take for granted, Rome's pretensions and assertions. They examined them all by the Bible, and because they would not abide the examination, they broke with Rome altogether. All the blessing of Protestantism in England, all that we are enjoying at this very day, we owe to the right exercise of private judgment.

Surely if we do not honor private judgment, we are thankless and ungrateful indeed! Reader, I warn you not to be moved by the common argument, that the right of private judgment is liable to be abused—that private judgment has done great harm, and should be avoided as a dangerous thing. Never was there a more miserable argument! Never was there one which when thrashed proves so full of chaff! Private judgment has been abused! I would like the objector to tell me what good gift of God has not been abused! What high principle can be named that has not been employed for the very worst of purposes? Strength may become tyranny when it is employed by the stronger to coerce the weaker, yet strength is a blessing when properly employed. Liberty may become licentiousness when every man does that which is right in his own eyes, without regarding the rights and feelings of others; yet liberty, rightly used, is a mighty blessing. Because many things may be used improperly, are we, therefore, to give them up altogether? Because opium is used improperly by some, is it not to be used as a medicine on any occasion at all? Because money may be used improperly, is all money to be cast into the sea? You cannot have good in this world without evil. You cannot have private judgment without some abusing it, and turning it to bad account.

But private judgment, people say, has done more than good! What harm has private judgment done, I would like to know, in matters of religion, compared to the harm that has been done by the neglect of it? Grant, for a moment, that among Protestants who allow private judgment, there are divisions. Grant that in the Church of Rome, where private judgment is forbidden, there are no divisions. I might easily show that Romish unity is far more seeming than real. Bishop Hall, in his book called The Peace of Rome, numbers up no less than three hundred differences of opinion maintained in the Romish Church. I might easily show that the divisions of Protestants are exceedingly exaggerated, and that most of them are upon points of minor importance. I might show that, with all the varieties of Protestantism, as men call them, there is still a vast amount of fundamental unity and substantial agreement among Protestants. No man can read the "Harmony of Protestant Confessions" without seeing that.

But grant for a moment that private judgment has led to divisions, and brought about varieties. I say that these divisions and varieties are but a drop of water, when compared with the torrent of abominations that have arisen from the Church of Rome's practice of disallowing private judgment altogether! Place the evils in two scales—the evils that have arisen from private judgment, and those that have arisen from no man being allowed to think for himself. Weigh the evils one against another, and I have no doubt as to which will be the greatest. Give me Protestant divisions, certainly, rather than Popish unity, with the fruit that it brings forth! Give me Protestant variations, rather than Romish ignorance, Romish superstition, Romish darkness, and Romish idolatry!

Let the two systems be tried by their fruits—the system that says, "Prove all things," and the system that says, "Dare to have no opinion of your own," let them be tried by their fruits in the hearts, in the intellects, in the lives, in all the ways of men—and I have no doubt as to the result!

Reader, I warn you above all things not to be moved by the specious argument, that it is humility to disallow private judgment, that it is humility to have no opinion of your own, that it is the part of a true Christian not to think for himself! I tell you that such humility is a false humility, a humility which does not deserve that blessed name. Call it rather laziness! Call it rather idleness. Call it rather sloth. It makes a man strip himself of all his responsibility, and throw the whole burden of his soul into the hands of the minister and the Church! It gives a man a mere vicarious religion, a religion by which he places his conscience and all his spiritual concerns under the care of others. He need not trouble himself! He need no longer think for himself! He has embarked in a safe ship, and placed his soul under a safe pilot—and will get to heaven!

Oh, beware of supposing that this deserves the name of humility. It is refusing to exercise the gift that God has given you. It is refusing to employ the sword of the Spirit which God has forged for the use of your hand. Blessed be God, our forefathers did not act upon such principles! Had they done so, we should never have had the Reformation. Had they done so, we might have been bowing down to the image of the virgin Mary at this moment, or praying to the spirits of departed saints, or having a service performed in Latin. From such humility, may the good Lord ever deliver you!

Reader, as long as you live—resolve that you will read for yourself; think for yourself, judge of the Bible for yourself; in the great matters of your soul. Have an opinion of your own. Never be ashamed of saying, "I think that this is right—because I find it in the Bible," and "I think that this is wrong—because I do not find it in the Bible." "Prove all things," and prove them by the Word of God. As long as you live, beware of the blindfold system, which many commend in the present day—the system of following a leader, and having no opinion of their own—the system which practically says, "Only keep your Church, only receive the sacraments, only believe what the ordained ministers who are set over you tell you—and then all shall be well."

I warn you, that this will not do. I warn you that if you are content with this kind of religion, you are periling your immortal soul. Let the Bible, and not any Church upon earth, or any minister upon earth, be your rule of faith.
"Prove all things" by the Word of God. And, above all, as long as you live, look forward to the great day of judgment. Think of the solemn account which every one of us shall have to give in that day before the judgment seat of Christ. We shall not be judged by Churches. We shall not be judged by whole congregations. We shall be judged individually, each by himself! What shall it profit you in that day to say, "Lord, Lord, I believed everything the Church told me. I received and believed everything ordained ministers set before me. I thought that whatever the Church and the ministers said, must be right"? What shall it profit us to say this, if we have held some deadly error? Surely, the voice of Him who sits upon the throne will reply, "You had the Scriptures. You had a book plain and easy—to him that will read it and search it in a childlike spirit. Why did you not use the Word of God when it was given to you? You had a reasonable mind given you to understand that Bible. Why did you not 'Prove all things,' and thus keep clear of error?" Oh, reader, if you refuse to exercise your private judgment, think of that awful day—and beware!

II. And now let me speak of the duty and necessity of keeping firm hold upon truth. The words of the Apostle on this subject are pithy and forcible. "Hold fast," he says, "that which is good." It is as if he said to us, "When you have found the truth for yourself; and when you are satisfied that it is Christ's truth—that truth which the Scriptures set forth—then get a firm hold upon it, grasp it, keep it in your heart, never let it go!" He speaks as one who knew what the hearts of all Christians are. He knew that our grasp of the Gospel, at our best, is very cold—that our love soon waxes feeble—that our faith soon wavers—that our zeal soon flags—that familiarity with Christ's truth often brings with it a species of contempt—that, like Israel, we are apt to be discouraged by the length of our journey—and, like Peter, ready to sleep one moment and fight the next—but, like Peter, not ready to watch and pray.

All this Paul remembered, and, like a faithful watchman, he cries, by the Holy Spirit, "Hold fast that which is good!" He speaks as if he foresaw by the Spirit that the good tidings of the Gospel would soon be corrupted, spoiled, and plucked away from the Church at Thessalonica. He speaks as one who foresaw that Satan and all his agents would labor hard to cast down Christ's truth. He writes as though he would forewarn men of this danger, and he cries, "Hold fast that which is good." Reader, the advice is always needed as long as the world stands.

There is a tendency to decay in the very best of human institutions. The best visible Church of Christ is not free from this liability to degenerate. It is made up of fallible men. There is always in it a tendency to decay. We see the leaven of evil creeping into many a Church, even in the Apostle's time. There were evils in the Corinthian Church, evils in the Ephesian Church, evils in the Galatian Church. All these things are meant to be our warnings and beacons in these latter times! All show the great necessity laid upon the Church to remember the Apostle's words: "Hold fast that which is good!"

Many a Church of Christ since then has fallen away for the lack of remembering this principle. Their ministers and members forgot that Satan is always laboring to bring in false doctrine. They forgot that he can transform himself into an angel of light—that he can make darkness appear as light, and light appear as darkness; truth appear as falsehood, and falsehood appear as truth. If he cannot destroy Christianity, he ever tries to corrupt it. If he cannot prevent the form of godliness, he endeavors to rob Churches of the power. No Church is ever safe which forgets these things, and does not bear in mind the Apostle's injunction: "Hold fast that which is good!"

Reader, if ever there was a time in the world when Churches were put upon their trial, whether they would hold fast the truth or not—that time is the present time, and those Churches are the Protestant Churches of our own land. Popery, that old enemy of our nation, is coming in upon us in this day like a flood. We are assaulted by open enemies without, and betrayed continually by false friends within. The numbers of Roman Catholic churches, and chapels, and schools, and convents and monasteries, are continually increasing around us. Month after month brings tidings of some new defection from the ranks of the Church of England, to the ranks of the Church of Rome. Already the clergy of the Church of Rome are using great swelling words about things to come, and boasting that, sooner or later, England shall once more be brought back to the orbit from whence she fell, and take her place in the Catholic system! Already the Pope is parceling our country into his bishoprics, and speaks like one who thinks that by-and-by he shall divide the spoil. Already he seems to foresee a time when England shall be as Rome, when London shall be as the Vatican itself. Surely, now or never, we ought all of us to awake, and "Hold fast that which is good."

We supposed, some of us, in our blindness, that the power of the Church of Rome was ended. We dreamed, some of us, in our folly, that the Reformation had ended the Popish controversy, and that if Romanism did survive, Romanism was altogether changed. If we did think so, we have lived to learn that we made a most grievous mistake! Rome never changes! It is her boast that she is always the same. The snake is not killed! He was wounded at the time of the Reformation, but was not destroyed. The Romish Antichrist is not dead. He was cast down for a little season, like the fabled giant buried under Etna, but his deadly wound is healed, the grave is opening once more, and Romish Antichrist is coming forth! The unclean spirit of Popery is not laid in his own place. Rather he seems to say, "My house in England is now swept and garnished for me; let me return to the place from whence I came forth."

And, reader, the question is now, whether we are going to abide quietly, sit still, and fold our hands, and do nothing to resist the assault. Are we really men of understanding of the times? Do we know the day of our visitation? Surely, this is a crisis in the history of our Churches and of our land. It is a time which will soon prove whether we know the value of our privileges, or whether, like Amalek, "the first of the nations," our "latter end shall be that we perish forever." It is a time which will soon prove whether we intend to allow our candlestick to be quietly removed—or repent, and do our first works, lest any man should take our crown.
If we love the open Bible—if we love the preaching of the Gospel—if we love the freedom of reading that Bible, and the opportunity of hearing that Gospel, with no man forbidding us—if we love civil liberty—if we love religious liberty—if these are precious to our souls, we must all make up our minds to hold fast, lest by and by we lose all.

Reader, if we mean to hold fast, every parish, every congregation, every Christian man, and every Christian woman, must do their part in contending for the truth. Each should work, and each should pray, and each should labor as if the preservation of the pure Gospel depended upon himself or herself, and upon no one else at all. The rich must not leave the matter to the poor, nor the poor to the rich. We must all work. Every living soul has a sphere of influence. Let him see to it that he fills it. Every living soul can throw some weight into the scale of the Gospel. Let him see to it that he casts it in. Let everyone know his own individual responsibility in this matter; and all, by God's help, will be well.

If we would hold fast that which is good, we must never tolerate any doctrine which is not the pure doctrine of Christ's Gospel. There is a hatred which is downright charity—that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine. There is an intolerance which is downright praiseworthy—that is the intolerance of false teaching. Who would ever think of tolerating a little poison given to him day by day? If men come among you who do not preach "all the counsel of God," who do not preach of Christ, and sin, and holiness, of ruin, and redemption, and regeneration; and do not preach of these things in a Scriptural way, you ought to cease to hear them. You ought to act upon the injunction given by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament: "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction which causes to err from the words of knowledge." (Proverbs 19:27.) You ought to carry out the spirit shown by the Apostle Paul, in Gal. 1:8: "Though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other doctrine unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed!"

If we can bear to hear Christ's truth mangled or adulterated—and can see no harm in listening to that which is "another Gospel"—and can sit at ease while "sham Christianity" is poured into our ears—and can go home comfortably afterwards, and not burn with holy indignation—if this is the case, there is little chance of our ever doing much to resist Rome! If we are content to hear Jesus Christ not put in His rightful place—we are not men and women who are likely to do Christ much service, or fight a good fight on His side. He who is not zealous against error—is not likely to he zealous for truth. If we would hold fast the truth—we must be ready to unite with all who hold the truth, and love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We must he ready to lay aside all minor questions as things of subordinate importance. All minor points of difference, however important they may be in their place and in their proportion—all ought to be regarded as subordinate questions. I ask no man to give up his private opinions about them. I wish no man to do violence to his conscience. All I say is, that these questions are wood, hay, and stubble, when the very foundations of the faith are in danger! The Philistines are upon us! Can we make common cause against them, or can we not? This is the one point for our consideration.

Surely it is not right to say that we expect to spend eternity with men in heaven, and yet cannot work for a few years with them in this world. The presence of a common foe ought to sink minor differences. We must hold together. Depend upon it, all Christians must hold together, if they mean to "hold fast that which is good." Some men may say, "This is very troublesome." Some may say, "Why not sit still and be quiet?" Some may say, "Oh, that horrid controversy! What need is there for all this trouble? Why should we care so much about these points of difference?" I ask, what good thing was ever gotten or ever kept, without trouble? Gold does not lie open in the fields, but deep in the earth. Pearls do not grow on trees, but deep down in Indian seas. Difficulties are never overcome without struggles. Mountains are seldom climbed without fatigue. Oceans are not crossed without tossings on the waves. Peace is seldom obtained without war. And Christ's truth is seldom maintained, without pains, without struggles, and without trouble.

Let the man who talks of "trouble" tell me where we would be at this day—if our forefathers had not taken some trouble? Where would be the Gospel of England—if martyrs had not given their bodies to be burned? Who shall estimate our debt to Cranmer, Latimer, Hooper, Ridley and Taylor, and their brethren? They held fast that which is good. They would not give up one jot of truth. They counted not their lives dear, for the Gospel's sake. They labored, and they travailed—and we have entered into their labors. Shame upon us if we will not take a little trouble to keep with us—what they so nobly won!

Trouble or no trouble—pains or no pains—controversy, or no controversy—one thing is very sure: that nothing but Christ's Gospel will ever do good to our own souls. Nothing else will maintain our Churches. Nothing else will ever bring down God's blessing upon our land. If, therefore, we love our own souls, or if we love our country's prosperity, or if we love to keep our Churches standing, we must remember the Apostles words, and "hold fast," hold firmly the Gospel, and refuse to let it go!

And now, reader, I have set before you two things. One is the right, the duty, and necessity of private judgment. The other is the duty and necessity of keeping firm hold upon truth. It only remains for me to APPLYthese things to your own individual conscience by a few concluding words.

For one thing, if it is your duty to "prove all things," let me beseech and exhort you to arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible. Prove all religious truth when it is brought before you—by the Bible. A little knowledge of the Bible will not suffice. Depend upon it, a man must know his Bible well if he is to prove religious teachings by it; and he must read it regularly if he would know it well. There is no royal road to a knowledge of the Bible. There must be reading daily, regular reading of the Book—or the Book will not be known. As one said quaintly, but most truly, "Justification may be by faith, but a knowledge of the Bible comes only by works." The devil can quote Scripture. He could go to our Lord and quote Scripture when he wished to tempt Him. A man must be able to perceive error, from his knowledge of Scripture, when he hears error taught—lest he be deceived. Neglect your Bible, and nothing that I know of can prevent your becoming a Roman Catholic, an Arminian, a Socinian, a Jew, or a Turk—if a plausible advocate of any of these false systems shall happen to meet you.

For another thing, if it be right to "prove all things," take care to test every Roman Catholic doctrine, by whoever put forward, by the written Word of God. Believe nothing, however speciously advanced—believe nothing, with whatever weight of authority brought forward—believe nothing, though supported by all the Fathers— believe nothing, except it can be proved to you out of Scripture! That alone is infallible. That alone is light. That alone is God's measure of truth and falsehood. "Let God be true—and every man a liar."

The New Zealanders' answer to the Romish priests who went among them, is an answer never to be forgotten. They heard these priests urge upon them the worship of the Virgin Mary. They heard them recommend them to pray to saints. They heard them advocate the use of images. They heard them speak of the authority of the Church of Rome, the supremacy of the Pope, the antiquity of the Romish church. They knew the Bible, and they heard all this calmly, and gave one simple but memorable answer: "It cannot be true—because it is not in the Book!" All the learning in the world could never have supplied a better answer than that! Latimer, or Knox, or Owen, could never have made a more crushing reply. Let this be our rule when we are attacked by Romanists; let us hold fast the sword of the Spirit, and say in reply to all their arguments, "It cannot be true—because it is not in the Book!"

Last of all, if it be right to "hold fast that which is good," let us make sure that we have each laid hold personally, upon Christ's truth for ourselves. Reader, it will not save you to know all controversies, and to be able to detect everything which is false. Head knowledge will never bring you to heaven! It will not save us to be able to argue and reason with Roman Catholics, or to detect the errors of Popes' Bulls, or Pastoral Letters. Let us see that we each lay hold upon Jesus Christ for ourselves, by our own personal faith. Let us see to it that we each flee for refuge, and lay hold upon the hope set before us in His glorious Gospel. Let us do this, and all shall be well with us, whatever else may go ill. Let us do this, and then all things are ours. The Church may fall. The State may go to ruin. The foundations of all establishments may be shaken. The enemies of truth may for a season prevail. But as for us—all shall be well. We shall have in this world, peace—and in the world which is to come, life everlasting; for we shall have Christ, and having Him, we have all. This is real good, lasting good—good in sickness, good in health, good in life, good in death, good in time, and good in eternity! All other things are but uncertain. They all wear out. They fade. They droop. They wither. They decay. The longer we have them the more worthless we find them, and the more we realize, that everything here below is "vanity and vexation of spirit."

But as for hope in Christ, that is always good. The longer we use it—the better it seems. The more we wear it in our hearts—the brighter it will look. It is good when we first have it. It is better far when we grow older. It is better still in the day of trial, and the hour of death. And best of all, depend upon it—it will prove good in the day of judgment. Reader, if you have not yet laid hold on this hope in Christ, seek it at once. Call on the Lord Jesus to give it to you. Give Him no rest until you know and feel that you are His. If you have laid hold on this hope, hold it fast. Prize it highly, for it will stand by you when everything else fails!

John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 - 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. Ryle was a strong supporter of the evangelical school and a critic of Ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (`878),Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (1879), and Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community. His second son, Herbert Edward Ryle was also a bishop.