October 1552 A.D. Background to the 1552 Book of Common Prayer and the Forty-two Articles
A few musings on Prof. Bromiley’s volume, p. 90ff.
Bromiley, G.W. Thomas Cranmer: Archbishop and Martyr. London: Church Book Room Press, 1956.
In 1549, Thomas Cranmer drew up “certain articles” for licensed preachers and lecturers “in his own diocese to subscribe.” On Prof. Bromiley’s view, no doctrine “was too narrowly defined.”
But, Prof. Bromiley does little to identify what “articles.” 42 Articles?
In 1551, Cranmer submitted to other bishops this list. Prof. Bromiley is not too sure of degree of concurrence with the 42 Articles. These articles were for “diocesan order.”
The Council comes into the picture on 2 May 1552. Cranmer was ordered by the Council to produce the articles and show if these were “set forth by any public authority or no.”
Prof. A.F. Pollard sees this as an implied rebuke to Cranmer for acting “without sanction of the Parliament of even Convocation” (Pollard, 284, 285).
Cranmer revised and submitted the articles to Cheke and Cecil (PS, 2, 439).
By October 1552, the Council submitted the articles to six divines: Edmund Grindal, John Knox and 4 others. Grindal, in due time, would be an Archbishop of Canterbury and John Knox we know from other inquiries. But, notably, Knox and Grindal are functioning at a very high level in the Edwardian Council.
Amendments were suggested. Then, Cranmer revised them and submitted them to the Council.
Cranmer wrote: “….beseeching your lordships to be means unto the king’s majesty, that all bishops may have authority from him to cause all their preachers, archdeacons, deans, prebendaries, parson, vicars, curates, with all their clergy, to subscribe to the said articles. And then I trust that such a concord and quietness in religion shall shortly follow thereof, as else is not to be looked for many years” (PS, II, 440-441).
This is a nearwise an almighty statement (rhetorical overstatement intended for effect) by Thomas Cranmer. Emphatically, this expresses Thomas Cranmer’s clear intent for the Articles.
Cranmer point: national subscription, a national theology, and national uniformity and belief. There is no other way to read Cranmer’s statement above.
There is no such thing for the ACNA or the TEC. It just is. It will continue to be what it is now.
We return to the story. A complication arises, however.
To wit, the Convocation had not met to assess the Articles although the the title page suggested it had and that they had approved the Articles.
Prof. Bromiley drops the hammer. This was a “flagrantly dishonest statement” since the Convocation had not met nor approved it. However, “Cranmer himself was not in any way implicated in the deception.” All this is rather gratutitous and Prof. Bromiley offers no further evidence here.
The title page reads: these Articles were “…agreed upon by the bishops and other learned and godly men in the last Convocation at London” (Foxe, IV, 468; PS, 1, 422). So, somewhere, on Prof. Bromiley’s view, dishonesty was in view.
However, what is not disputed is that the Articles would “have a considerable historical importance.” These 42 Articles were the basis of the 39 Articles established by Queen Elizabeth 1, Convocation and Parliament. It is still the “authorized and authoritative confession of the English Church” (although Profs. Bray and Packer observe that they are not used or known).
Prof. Bromiley goes on: “With his Articles as well as his Second Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer had a deeper and more far-reaching influence than he himself could ever know.” It would shape Anglican doctrine, worship and piety for subsequent centuries.
In his own lifetime, Cranmer’s work had “crumbled.” He died never understanding how far reaching his doctrinal and liturgical reforms would extend.
Of the 39 Articles, Dixon says: “The broad soft touch of Cranmer lay upon them when they came from the furnace; a touch which was not retained wholly in the recension which reduced them afterwards to Thirty-Nine” (Dixon, III, 520). But, what does that mean? The Articles, Dixon advises, were not “deliberately contentious” and were “not narrow.” The truth is stated and errors are excluded. This much: the Real Presence was the “negation of the sacramental teaching of the Council of Trent.” We would certainly add a negation of the Lutherans’ turn on the issue. Anabaptists were “decisively refuted.” Anabaptists and Romanist reactionaries could not “consciously subscribe to the Articles.” And that was the point, then, as now.
The “constructive work of Cranmer reached its climax and end.”
The “whole structure of the Church had been transformed and its inner life revolutionized.”
From one angle, the Church had suffered: (1) the Church’s wealth had been plundered, (2) the Church’s authority had been undermined, (3) the Church’s hold on the masses had been shaken, (4) doctrinal unity had been broken, and (5) the outline of ministry had been undermined. Prof. Bromiley notes that these were externalities, although this seems rather dismissive.
The internal changes he tell us: (1) the Bible was in all parishes and even in the homes, a massive change, (2) the BCP would go national—simple, dignified, and Scriptural services were put forward in the nation’s churches, (3) Reformation and Reformed doctrine had been put forward.
Yet, all these doctrinal and liturgical reforms depended on the “fragile life of Edward.” Edward VI never recovered from the “severe illnesses of 1552.” The “…outlook was dark indeed” “Cranmer can have know little joy or satisfaction, but only a sense of foreboding and futility, when he saw his life’s work brought to its apparent completion.”
All of this was in view in October 1552.
In a little over nine months, by 6 July 1553, the Marian machine of death and reversal would be in place to work its woe, hostility and murders.