Undivided Church

   In the great work of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, the Church of England did not seek to introduce innovations, to erect a new church in the place of the old, or to change the old religion for a new religion. What it aimed to do was to retain its ancient heritage, but at the same time to free the old Church from certain grave abuses, to purify the old religion from many harmful superstitions which had sprung up during the Middle Ages. Thus "the continuity of the English Church was the first principle of the English Reformation." In all the work of Reformation, covering a long period of time, the appeal was constantly made to the primitive standards of the Undivided Church; to Holy Scripture as interpreted by the teaching and customs of the Primitive Church, the writings of the Fathers and the decisions of the General Councils. The reasonableness of this appeal will appear when we consider that it is this early age of Christianity, the age nearest to the time of the Apostles, which best preserved the personal instructions of the Twelve, which was most likely to be in accord with the Will of our Lord and which maintained the Church's unity unimpaired. It was during this time, because the Church was one and undivided, that the Canon of Scripture was established, that it was possible to hold the Ecumenical Councils which defined "the Faith once delivered to the Saints," and gave us the Creeds as the "Rule of Faith." For this reason the English Church in her Reformation appealed to the practice, teaching and decisions of the Undivided Church. It was thus she was enabled to preserve her historic continuity. The original Unity of the Church was finally broken by the great schism between the East and the West which took place A.D. 1054, (See Tradition; also Fathers.)

American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. — New York, Thomas Whittaker. . 1901.

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