June 24, 2013

John Ellis’ Defence of the 39 Articles, two works by Thomas Swadlin, now online

John Ellis was a Welsh Anglican divine, important for his two Commentaries: the “Clavis Fidei, a Commentary on the Apostles Creed” (1642), and the Defensio Fidei, a Defence of the Thirty Nine Articles (1660), now published on During the great rebellion he was a rector in a Welsh parish, but was not long to remain in obscurity, for in the year 1660, immediately upon the Restoration, he published his famous “Defensio Fidei,” the commentary defending the Articles of Religion against the Puritans, and especially against the Calvinistic Westminster Confession that had been the only legal theology in England during the Civil War.

Upon the restoration a defense of the Church of England was thought necessary against the Puritan views, and the Articles of Religion were deemed to be the most tool for that purpose. This explains the simultaneity of Ellis’ commentary with the Restoration, namely the year 1660, and the title he chose for the work, the “defensio fidei,” namely the “defense of the faith.” In this treatise, in an abridged form, Ellis included the sum of orthodox Anglican theology and laid a foundation for the complete restoration of the Church, the re-publication of the Prayer-Book in 1662, which made the establishment of the Church secure once and for all.

Thomas Swadlin was an important Anglican divine during the great rebellion of 1643 to 1660. Regarded as a firm supporter of the Anglican church in opposition to the ruling party of the Presbyterians and Independents he wrote numerous polemical tracts, such as Whether it be better to turn Presbyterian, Romane, or to continue what I am, Catholique in matter of Religion (1657) (now published on In this treatise Swadlin penned numerous sententious phrases and refutations of the Presbyterian and Roman positions, and yet did not hide his dismay at the lack of prospects for the Church which was then at the height of twilight. Fifteen years had already passed since the Puritans turned upside down the fabric of English society. A whole generation of children rising up under the education of the Presbyterians had never known of the Church of England; and a long decade had elapsed since King Charles I’s decapitation at the hands of the rebels, the memory of the old country slowly slipping away. Swadlin restrained his despair in the third section, through a blunt reaffirmation to himself of the Faith whereunto he cleaved unto the last.

In another tract of similar nature, from 1653, he published his Two Letters to a subtile Papist and a zealous Presbyterian, where he provided a more lengthy litany of objections to the Roman church, and an extensive debate with a Presbyterian on matters of admittance to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper which affords curious details of the opinions that existed during that era.

John Ellis, Defensio Fidei, A Defence of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England. →

Thomas Swadlin, Whether it be better to turn Presbyterian, Romane, or to continue what I am, Catholique in matter of Religion →

Thomas Swadlin, Two Letters to a subtile Papist and a zealous Presbyterian →