Friday, March 9

Everything's Coming Up Irish: Irish Articles of Religion

The Irish Articles of Religion are an important piece in the history of Protestantism in Ireland, and, as we will see, in the history of Protestantism as a whole. These 104 articles were put together by James Ussher, and adopted, as it's introduction says,
by the Archbishops and Bishops
and the rest of the clergy of Ireland.
In the Convocation held at Dublin in the year of our Lord God 1615,
for the avoiding of Diversities of Opinions,
and the establishing of consent touching true Religion.
This document was a rule of public doctrine, and all Irish Protestent ministers were expected to teach in conformity to it. It served this purpose for twenty years, until public opinion turned against its strict Calvinism during the rein of Charles I. In 1635, the Irish Convocation adopted The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, and although it was agreed at the time that both The Thirty-Nine Articles and The Irish Articles would be used, that was the beginning of the end of the use of The Irish Articles as a rule of doctrine.

But that wasn't the end of this historic document's influence. It's generally agreed that The Irish Articles served as the framework for The Westminster Confession of Faith, with the WCF using the general order of The Irish Articles, and retaining some of its language while expanding upon its ideas.

See for yourself. Here's Article 11 of The Irish Articles of Religion:
11. God from all eternity did by his unchangeable counsel ordain whatsoever in time should come to pass: yet so, as thereby no violence is offered to the wills of the reasonable creatures, and neither the liberty nor the contingency of the second causes is taken away, but established rather.
If you've spent much time reading The Westminster Confession of Faith, that paragraph probably sounds familiar to you. Chapter 3, Article 1 of the WCF says this:
1. God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Let's move on to the next section in The Irish Articles and compare that with Chapter 3, articles 3 and 4 of the WCF.
  • From The Irish Articles:
    12. By the same eternal counsel God hath predestinated some unto life, and reprobated some unto death: of both which there is a certain number, known only to God, which can neither be increased nor diminished.
  • From The Westminster Confession of Faith:
    3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.

    4. These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.

And you thought those Westminster Divines drew up the WCF all on their own, didn't you?

Unfortunately for James Ussher, he might be remembered more for being the man who dated the creation of the world to 4004 BC than for his role in creating The Irish Articles, or for contributing, through them, to The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Would you like to this month's Everything's Coming Up Irish theme? Post anything related to Ireland or Irish things and send me the link (You can email me, or leave your link in the comments to this post.), then look for a link to your post in one of the upcoming ECUI posts. No blog? No problem. Email me your contribution or leave it in the comments and I'll post what you've contributed in one of the Irish posts.

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