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Thirty-Nine Articles

ARTICLES, THE THIRTY-NINE. The Church of England's definition of Christian doctrine, and as such they have to be subscribed by all who seek Holy Orders. Formerly, every graduate of our Universities had to subscribe them. Many of the Articles are of a confessedly elastic nature, being so framed as to embrace the views of the various parties in the Church: but at the same time they are not so indefinite as many would have us believe.

Their history is this:—In 1553 Cranmer, Ridley, and others, drew up 42 Articles, which were more or less taken from the "Confession of Augsburgh," composed by Luther and Melancthon. In 1562 these 42 Articles were entirely re-modelled by Archbishop Parker and Convocation, when they were reduced to 38. In 1571, Parker and Convocation added Article xxix., which made up our present 39, which were subscribed in the Upper House of Convocation, by the Archbishops and Bishops, and by all the clergy of the Lower House. They were published the year after (1572) under the superintendence of Bishop Jewel, and the Ratification, still subjoined to them in the Prayer Book, was added. With regard to their arrangement—The first five treat of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; the three following establish the rule of Christian Faith; from the ninth to the eighteenth they bear reference to Christians considered as individuals; and thence to the end they relate to Christians, considered as Members of a Church or religious society.