Marcus Loane on The English Reformation

Posted on March 20, 2021 
Filed under History, Theology

Archbishop Sir Marcus LoaneIn 1954, Marcus Loane – later Archbishop of Sydney and Sir Marcus – published his landmark “Masters of The English Reformation”.

It was republished in 2005 by Banner of Truth. If you haven’t read it, you ought to. (Availability.)

Here’s the Introduction —

“It was Martin Luther who declared that the doctrine of Justification by Faith Only is the article of a standing or falling church. The recovery of this doctrine was the key to the Reformation in Europe. It was the corollary of the translation of the Bible into the language of everyday life and its circulation in the homes and hands of ordinary people. These two momentous factors were to penetrate the Realm of England during the reign of Henry VIII and will forever be associated in a special sense with the names of Thomas Bilney and William Tyndale. These two, and many others as well, were to die at the stake as a result of their unswerving loyalty to the doctrines of Grace as made known in the Word of God. Nor did they die in vain. The supreme authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and conduct was written into the sixth of the Articles of Religion; and the doctrine of Justification by Faith Only was summed up in unforgettable language in the Eleventh Article. Those two “Articles of the Christian Faith” are the bedrock on whIch the history of the Church of England since the Reformation must stand or fall.

But the pivot of the Reformation in England during the reign of Edward VI was the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Ridley’s discovery of the work of Ratramnus led him to reject the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass as totally foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. Ridley was able to convince Cranmer that Ratramnus was right; they came to believe that the bread and wine are “the pledges” of God’s redeeming love and that the presence of the Lord Jesus is not to be found in an earthly altar, but in the hearts of those who feed on Him by faith with thanksgiving. Ridley was to expound this doctrine with clarity and dignity in his Treatise on the Lord’s Supper, and Cranmer was to defend it with great learning in his controversy with Gardiner. This was the doctrine enshrined in the Source of the Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer in 1552.

When Queen Mary came to the throne, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were the outstanding Reformers who were thrown into prison. In all the debates which ensued, in their trial and condemnation for heresy, and in the sentence of death which consigned them to death by fire, the one basic issue was their doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as opposed to the dogmas of the church with regard to Transubstantiation and the Mass. If the Church were right and they were wrong, they were not only condemned to a terrible form of death as heretics but were doomed to a lost eternity. Their real greatness was seen in the fact that they dared to stand by their convictions, formed as a result of intensive study of the Scriptures, and to die at the stake rather than yield to the pressures that were brought to bear on mind and feeling. And the candle they lit is one which by the grace of God will never go out.

What happened more than four hundred years ago is still vitally relevant. The integrity and authority of the Bible have been under constant assault from many quarters and it is no longer the one Book in the homes and hands of all. Many people today think that a good life, a good name, and a good reputation will somehow make them acceptable to God. And the reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper has been obscured by an emphasis on the Real Presence which approximates more and more towards medieval teaching and practice. Let Bilney and Tyndale speak again; let Latimer and Ridley and Cranmer be heard afresh. They witnessed “a good confession” for their heavenly Master and sealed it with their lives.

May this book renew the impact of their life and death on another generation “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” [1 Cor. 6:11].”

Photo: Ramon Williams. (This is a repost from 2014 in remembrance of the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on 21 March 1556.)