Gleaning - Irish Articles of 1615
by Philip Schaff
written and influenced by James Ussher.
The Protestant clergy in Ireland accepted the English Prayer-Book in 1560. Whether the Elizabethan Articles of Religion were also adopted is uncertain. At all events, they did not fully satisfy the rigorous Calvinism which came to prevail there for a period even more extensively than in England, and which found an advocate in an Irish scholar and prelate of commanding character and learning.
The first Convocation of the Irish Protestant clergy, which took place after the model of the English Convocation, adopted a doctrinal formula of its own, under the title 'Articles of Religion, agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops, and the rest of the clergy of Ireland, in the Convocation holden 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.'
They were drawn up by James Ussher, head of the theological faculty and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland. He was born in 1580, died 1656, and was buried in Westminster Abbey by order of Cromwell. He was the greatest theological and antiquarian scholar of the Episcopal Church of his age, and was highly esteemed by Churchmen and Puritans, being a connecting link between the contending parties. He was elected into the Westminster Assembly of Divines, but the King's prohibition and his loyalty to the cause of the crown and episcopacy forbade him to attend. He had an extraordinary familiarity with Biblical and patristic literature, and, together with his friend Vossius of Holland, he laid the foundation for a critical investigation of the ecumenical creeds. Whether formally commissioned by the Convocation or not, he must, from his position, have had the principal share in the preparation of those Articles. They are 'in strict conformity with the opinions he entertained at that period of his life.
By a decree of the Synod appended to the Dublin Articles, they were to be a rule of public doctrine, and any minister who should publicly teach any doctrine contrary to them, and after due admonition should refuse to conform, was to be 'silenced and deprived of all spiritual promotions.' The Viceroy of Ireland, in the name of King James, gave his approval. James, with all his high notions of episcopacy and 664hatred of Puritanism, was a Calvinist in theology, and countenanced the Synod of Dort. It is stated that the adoption of this Confession induced Calvinistic ministers of Scotland to settle in Ireland.
But in the reign of Charles I. and his adviser, Archbishop Laud, a reaction set in against Calvinism. An Irish Convocation in 1635, under the lead of the Earl of Strafford, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and his chaplain, John Bramhall (one of the ablest High-Church Episcopalians, who was made Bishop of Londonderry, 1634, and Archbishop of Armagh, 1661 died, 1663), adopted the Thirty-nine Articles 'for the manifestation of agreement with the Church of England in the confession of the same Christian faith and the doctrine of the sacraments.' This act was intended quietly to set aside the Irish Articles; and hence they were ignored in the canons adopted by that convocation. Ussher, however, who continued to adhere to Calvinism, though on terms of friendship with Laud, required subscription to both series, and in a contemporary letter to Dr. Ward he says: 'The Articles of Religion agreed upon in our former Synod, anno 1615, we let stand as we did before. But for the manifestation of our agreement with the Church of England, we have received and approved your Articles also, concluded in the year 1562, as you may see in the first of our Canons. After the Restoration the Dublin Articles seem to have been lost sight of, and no mention was made of them when, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the English and Irish establishments were consolidated into 'the United Church of England and Ireland.
The Irish Articles are one hundred and four in number, arranged under nineteen heads. They are a clear and succinct system of divinity, in full harmony with Calvinism, excepting the doctrine of the ecclesiastical supremacy of the crown (which is retained from the English Articles). They incorporate the substance of the Thirty-nine Articles and the Lambeth Articles, but are more systematic and complete. They teach absolute predestination and perseverance, denounce the Pope as Antichrist, inculcate the Puritan view of Sabbath observance, and make no mention of three orders in the ministry, nor of the necessity of episcopal ordination. In all these particulars they prepared the way for the doctrinal standards of the Westminster Assembly. They were the chief basis of the Westminster Confession, as is evident from the general order, the headings of chapters and subdivisions, and the almost literal agreement of language in the statement of several of the most important doctrines.
Works of the Most Rev. James Ussher, D.D., Lord Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland. With a Life of the Author, and an Account of his Writings. By Charles Richard Elrington, D.D. Dublin, 1847, 16 Vols. See Vol. I. pp. 38 sqq. and Appendix IV.
Ch. Hardwick: A History of the Articles of Religion, pp. 181 sqq., 351 sqq.
James Seaton Reid, D.D.: History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Belfast, 1834, 3 vols.
W. D. Killen, D.D. (Presb. Prof. of Eccles. Hist. at Belfast): The Ecclesiastical History of Ireland from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. London, 1875, 2 vols. (Vol. I. pp. 492 sqq.; Vol. II. pp. 17 sqq.)
The Irish Articles are printed in Vol. III. pp. 526 sqq. of this work, in Dr. Elrington's Life of Ussher (Vol. I. Append. IV.), in Hardwick (Append. VI.), and in Killen (Vol. I. Append. III.).
 Archbishop Ussher, in a sermon preached before the English House of Commons, 1621, declared: 'We all agree that the Scriptures of God are the perfect rule of our faith: we all consent in the main grounds of religion drawn from thence; we all subscribe to the Articles of Doctrine agreed upon in the Synod of the year 1562.' But he must have understood this in the general sense of assent, as he was addressing laymen who never subscribed the Articles. Elrington, p. 43, and Hardwick, p. 182. The Irish Church adopted, in 1566 (1567), a 'Brief Declaration' in XII. Articles of Religion; but these are substantially the same as the XI. Articles prepared by Archbishop Parker, 1559 or 1560, and provisionally used in England till 1563. In Ireland they continued in force till 1615. See Elrington, Append.; Hardwick, pp. 122, 337; and Killen, Vol. I. pp. 395, 515, 520.
 He and his family spell the name with double s (Latin, Usserius), but it is often spelled Usher.
 Dr. Elrington, Life of J. Ussher, pp. 43, 44. Comp. also the 'Body of Divinity,' which was published in Ussher's name during the sessions of the Westminster Assembly, and which, he admitted to have compiled, in early life, from the writings of others.
 Killen, Vol. I. p. 495.
 Killen, Vol. II. p. 23: 'The silence of the canons in respect to the Calvinistic formulary, now nearly twenty years in use, was fatal to its claims, and thus it was quietly superseded. Heylin errs in stating (Life of Laud) that the Dublin Articles were actually 'called in.'
 Elrington, Life, p. 176.
 Hardwick, p. 190.
 This agreement has been proved by Professor Mitchell, D.D., of St. Andrews, in his tract The Westminster Confession of Faith, 3d ed., Edinburgh, 1867, and in the Introduction to his edition of the Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, 1874, pp. xlvi. sqq. We shall return to the subject more fully in the section on the Westminster Confession.