A. The Church (19-22)
19. The Church
The visible church of Christ is a congregation of believers in which the pure Word of God is preached and in which the sacraments are rightly administered according to Christ’s command in all those matters that are necessary for proper administration. As the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the church of Rome has erred, not only in their practice and forms of worship but also in matters of faith.
20. The authority of the church
The church has authority to decree forms of worship and ceremonies and to decide in controversies concerning the faith. However, it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to God’s written Word. Nor may it expound one passage of Scripture so that it contradicts another passage. So, although the church is a witness and guardian to holy Scripture, it must not decree anything contrary to Scripture, nor is it to enforce belief in anything additional to Scripture as essential to salvation.
21. The authority of general councils
[The Twenty-first of the former Articles is omitted; because it is partly of a local and civil nature, and is provided for, as to the remaining parts of it, in other Articles] The original 1571, 1662 text of this Article, omitted in the version of 1801, reads as follows: “General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof of all not be governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) 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 be taken out of holy Scripture.
The Roman doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping, and adoration (both of images and of relics), and the invocation of saints is a futile thing foolishly conceived and grounded on no evidence of Scripture. On the contrary this teaching is repugnant to the Word of God.
B. Ministry (23-24)
23. Ministering in the congregation
It is not right for any man to take upon himself the office of public preaching or of administering the sacraments in the congregation before he has been lawfully called and sent to perform these tasks. The lawfully called and sent are those who have been chosen and called to this work by men who have had a public authority given to them in the congregation to call and send such ministers into the Lord’s vineyard. 24. Speaking in the congregation in a language that people understand.
It is plainly repugnant to the Word of God and to the custom of the early church for public prayer or the administration of the sacraments in a language not understood by the people.
C. The Sacraments (25-31)
25. The sacraments
The sacraments instituted by Christ are not only badges or tokens of the profession of Christians but are also sure witnesses and effectual signs of God’s grace and good will towards us. Through them he works invisibly within us, both bringing to life and also strengthening and confirming our faith in him. There are two sacraments instituted by Christ our Lord in the Gospel-Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The five that are commonly called sacraments (confirmation, penance, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction) are not to be regarded as Gospel sacraments. This is because they are either a corruption of apostolic practice or states of life as allowed in the Scriptures. They are not of same nature as the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper since they do not have any visible sign or ceremony instituted by God. The sacraments were not instituted by Christ to be gazed at or carried about but to be used properly. It is only in those who receive them worthily that they have a beneficial effect or operation. As Paul the apostle says, those who receive them in an unworthy manner bring condemnation upon themselves.
26. The sacraments are not rendered ineffectual by the unworthiness of the minister
Although in the visible church the evil are always mingled with the good and sometimes evil people possess the highest rank in the ministry of the Word and sacraments, nevertheless since they do not do these things in their own name but in Christ’s and minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing God’s Word and in receiving the sacraments. The effect of Christ’s institution is not taken away by the wickedness of these people, nor is the grace of God’s gifts diminished, so long as the sacraments are received by faith and rightly. The sacraments are effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, even though they may be administered by evil men. Nevertheless, it belongs to the discipline of the church that investigation be made into evil ministers. Those who are accused by witnesses having knowledge of their offenses and who in the end are justly found guilty, should be disposed.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession and a mark of difference by which Christians are distinguished from those who are not baptized. It is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, through which, as through an instrument, those who receive baptism in the right manner are grafted into the church, the promises of the forgiveness of sin and of our adoption as sons of God by the Holy Spirit are visibly signed and sealed, faith is confirmed, and grace is increased by virtue of prayer to God. The baptism of young children is undoubtedly to be retained in the church as that which agrees best with Christ’s institution.
28. Of the Lord’s Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the mutual love that Christians ought to have among themselves. Rather, it is a sacrament of our redemption through Christ’s death. To those who rightly, worthily, and with faith receive it, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and similarly the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (the change of the substance of the bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved from holy Scripture, but is repugnant to the plain teaching of Scripture. It overthrows the nature of a sacrament and has given rise to many superstitions. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only in a heavenly and spiritual manner. The means by which the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is by faith.
29. The wicked who partake of the Lord’s Supper do not eat the body of Christ
The wicked and those who lack a living faith, although they physically and visibly ‘press with their teeth’ (as St. Augustine says) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, nevertheless are in no way partakers of Christ. Rather, by eating and drinking the sign or sacrament of so great a thing, they bring condemnation upon themselves.
30. Reception in both kinds
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the laity. For by Christ’s institution and commandment both parts of the Lord’s sacrament ought to be administered to all Christian people alike.
31. The oblation of Christ finished upon the cross
The offering of Christ made once is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual. There is no other satisfaction for sin but this alone. Consequently, the sacrifices of masses, in which it was commonly said that the priest offered Christ for the living and dead so as to gain remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.
D. Discipline (32-36)
32. Marriage of Priests
It is not commanded by any decree of God that bishops, presbyters, or deacons take a vow of celibacy or abstain from marriage. So it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion when they judge that this will promote godliness
33. The excommunicated: how they are to be avoided
Any person who has openly been denounced by the church and justly cut off from its fellowship and excommunicated is to be regarded by the whole body of the faithful as a ‘pagan and swindler’ until he is openly reconciled by repentance and received back into the church by a judge who has the necessary authority in such matters.
34. The customs of the church
It is not necessary that customs and forms of worship be exactly the same everywhere. Throughout history they have differed. They may be altered according to the differing nations, times, and habits o people provided that nothing is commanded contrary to God’s Word. Whoever by his own private judgment openly, willingly, and deliberately breaks those customs and forms of worship of the church which do not contradict the Word of God and are approved by common authority, is to be openly rebuked. This is so that others will be afraid to act similarly, and in so doing offend against the common order of the church, to undermine the authority of the state’s representative and to wound the consciences of weak Christians. Every particular or national church has authority to command, change, or abolish the ceremonies or forms of worship of the church which are appointed by man’s authority provided that every thing is done for the building up of Christian people.
35. The Homilies
The second Book of Homilies contains godly and wholesome teaching which is necessary for these times, as does the first book of Homilies published during the reign of Edward VI. We therefore judge that they ought to be read diligently and distinctly in the churches by the ministers so that they may be understood by the people.
36. The consecration of bishops and ministers
The Book of Consecration of Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, as set forth by the General Convention of this Church in 1792, contains all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither has it any thing that of itself, is superstitious and ungodly. And, therefore, whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to said Form, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.
The original 1571, 1662 text of this Article reads as follows: “The book for the consecration of archbishops and bishops and for ordaining presbyters and deacons, published in the time of Edward VI and confirmed at the same time by the authority of Parliament, contains all things necessary to such consecration and ordination. Nor does it contain anything which of itself is superstitious and ungodly. Therefore whoever is consecrated or ordained according to the services of that book, since the second year of Edward VI to the present time, and whoever will be consecrated and ordained according to those services in the future, we declare to be rightly, duly and lawfully consecrated and ordained.”
E. Church-State Relations (37-39)
37. The state and its civil representatives
The power of the Civil Magistrate extends to all men, as well as Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal; but has no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.
The original 1571, 1662 text of this article reads as follows: The sovereign has the chief power in the realm of England and his other possessions. The supreme government of all in this realm, whatever their station, whether ecclesiastical or civil, and in all matters, belongs to him and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.
When we attribute to the sovereign the chief government (a title which seems to have offended some slanderous persons) we do not grant our rulers the ministry of either God’s Word or of the sacraments. This is also made clear in the Injunctions published by Queen Elizabeth I. By this we acknowledge only the prerogative which we see in holy Scripture God has given to all godly rulers. They should rule all people committed to their charge by God, whatever their station or rank, whether ecclesiastical or secular, and restrain with the civil power those who are stubborn or practice evil.
The bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
The laws of the realm may punish Christian people with death for heinous and grave offenses. It is lawful for Christian men at the command of the state to carry weapons and serve in wars.
38. Private Property
Contrary to what some Anabaptists claim, the wealth and possessions of Christians are not common, as far as the right, title, and possession of them is concerned. Nevertheless, everyone ought to give freely to the poor from what he possess, according to his means.
39. A Christian’s Oath
We believe that the vain and rash swearing of oaths is forbidden to Christians by our Lord Jesus Christ and St. James. However, we judge that the Christian faith does not prohibit the swearing of an oath when the state requires it if in a cause where the faithfulness and love justify it, and according to the prophet Jeremiah’s teaching, in justice, judgment and truth .