You are here:Home-Resources-Counsel of Chalcedon Magazine-2006 Issue 4-Authentic Christianity: Studies in the Westminster Standards Part 2

Authentic Christianity: Studies in the Westminster Standards Part 2

During the reign of Henry VIII, the reformation of the church in England was largely “a contest between the king and the pope. The purpose, which Henry VIII set before himself, was to free the state from foreign influences exerted by the pope through the church; and his efforts were directed, with great singleness of aim, to the establishment of his own authority in ecclesiastical matters to the exclusion of that of the pope. In these efforts he had the support of Parliament, always jealous of foreign interference; and was not merely sustained but urged on by the whole force of the religious and doctrinal reform gradually spreading among the people, which, however, he made it his business rather to curb than to encourage. The removal of this curb during the reign of Edward VI concealed for a time the evils inherent in the new powers assumed by the throne. But with the accession of Elizabeth I, who had no sympathy whatever with religious enthusiasm, they began to appear; and they grew ever more flagrant under her successors, (“Bloody Mary,” the pervert James I, and the devotee to the tenet that “the king is law,” Charles I). The authority in ecclesiastical matters, which had been vindicated to the throne over against the pope, was increasingly employed to establish the general authority of the throne over against the Parliament. The church thus became the instrument of the crown in compacting its absolutism; and the interests of civil liberty soon rendered it as imperative to break the absolutism of the king in ecclesiastical affairs as it had ever been to eliminate the papacy from the control of the English Church.