Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ESSAY VI.

On the Apostles' Creed.

[ocr errors]

THAT part of our liturgy which is com

monly called the Apostles' Creed, is a summary of the Christian faith, an epitome of those things which “ a Christian ought to know « and believe to his soul's health.'

It is confessedly a composition of very great antiquity; but whether the twelve inspired persons whose names it bears, or any of them, were really the authors of it, or of any part of it, will not here be discussed. Each side of the question has had its advocates. Whether this famous formulary be sufficiently comprehensive to include all the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, will be here left undetermined; nor will it be

# Dr. Comber, in his Companion to the Temple (p. 132), strongly asserts, and labours hard to establish the affirmative side of the question, referring the reader to the primitive fathers from Clemens Romanus downwards to the time of Augustine, as having positively ascribed A postolic authority to this creed. He cites also Luther, Calvin, Beza, P. Martyr, and Bullenger, as uniting in opinion with himself. But it seems very questionable whether, by “ Fides A pos“ tolica," and such like phrases, these ancient fathers of the church meant this or any other compendium of divinity, or whether they did not thereby intend a general description of the Christian faith, as built on the foundation of the Apostolic writings. Bishops Burnet and Pearson consider this high claim, which some have made in favour of this creed, to be altogether indefensible.-See Bishop Burnet's Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, on Art. VIII.

the object of the present essay to comment at large on the several articles of the creed, and confirm them by apposite quotations from Scripture. This has been done repeatedly and copiously by various writers. * It will, however, be proper to lay the creed itself before the reader, and cursorily to point out the particulars of which it consists.

“ I believe in God, the Father Almighty, “ Maker of heaven and earth: and in Jesus “ Christ His only Son our Lord, who was con“ ceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin

Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was

crucified, dead, and buried; He descended “ into Hell, † the third day He rose again from " “ the dead; He ascended into heaven, and “ sitteth on the right hand of God the Father

Almighty; from thence He shall come to

[ocr errors]

* Those who are desirous of further information on this subject, will find great satisfaction by reading Bishop Pearson's Exposition of the Creed; and Mr. Walker's (of Truro) Lectures on the Church Catechism.

+ As the article of the descent into hell has offended the minds of many serious persons, it seems proper to remark that “our English or rather Saxon word hell, in its original “ signification (though it is now understood in a more limited “sense) exactly answers to the Greek word Hades, and “ denotes a concealed or unseen place; and this sense of the “ word is still retained in the eastern, and especially in the “ western counties of England; to hele over a thing is to

cover it.-See Lord King's History of the Creed, ch. iv." Doddridge on Rev. i. 18. It seems, however, a pity that Hades and Gehenna, the former signifying in general the place of separate spirits, and the latter the place of torment, should both have been rendered, in the translation of our Bible, by the same word. Hell, considered as the place to which the disembodied spirit of our Saviour went, must be synonymous with Paradise, since our Lord promised there to meet the penitent thief. Luke xxiii. 43. VOL. I.

I

judge the quick and the dead. I believe in "the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; "the communion of saints; the forgiveness of "sins; the resurrection of the body, and the "life everlasting. Amen."

[ocr errors]

This compendious body of Divinity commences with the fundamental article of all true religion, the unity of the Godhead, "I believe

in God." The importance of this part of our belief our Lord points out in a conversation He held with a certain scribe, who came and asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?

Jesus answered him, The first of all the com"mandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our "God is one Lord."* The doctrine of the Trinity is not omitted, though it be not asserted and illustrated in those strong terms which are used in the other creeds, which were drawn up after the rise of the various heresies which soon began, and still continue, to infest the church of Christ. We profess our faith in the first Person of the Godhead, as "the Father" of us all by creation, and of His church by adoption and grace; and as "the Maker of heaven and "earth," and of all things therein contained. The second Person in Jehovah is also introduced as the object of faith; and though the assertion

* Mark xii. 29. Our Lord's answer is a quotation from Dent. vi. 4, where the words of the original Hebrew are very remarkable: " Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our Aleim (a "plural noun regularly formed from its singular, and fre"quently used with verbs, adjectives, and participles plural) "is one Jehovah." In the compass of these few words the doctrine of the unity of the Divine essence, and of the plurality of Persons therein, is so clearly laid down, that the gates of hell, with all its sophistry and power, can never prevail against this most valuable and consolatory truth.

of His Divine nature be not so full and explicit as that which is made in the creed of St. Athanasius and the other in our communion service, for the reason before assigned; yet enough is here said, if properly understood, to characterise our adorable Redeemer as being “ equal with the “ Father touching his Godhead, though inferior. “ to the Father touching his Manhood.”* The

* The name Jesus, in Hebrew, is a compound of ot" Jah or Jehovah, and yus a Saviour or salvation; so that He to whoin that name properly belongs must be God. The name Jesus answers to Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, “ God with us.” It was foretold by the Spirit of Prophecy, that our Lord's name should be Emmanuel.Matt. i. 22, 23. “ Several ways,” says Bishop Pearson, “ have been invented " to shew the fulfilling of that prophecy, notwithstanding “ our Saviour was not called Èmmanuel; but none can “ certainly appear more proper, than that the sense of “ Emmanuel should be comprehended in the name of Jesus ; « and what else is God with us than God our Saviour ? “ Well, therefore, hath the Evangelist conjoyned the pro“phet and the angel (see Matt. i. 22, 23.) asserting that “ Christ was therefore named Jesus, because it was foretold “ He should be called Emmanuel, the Angelical God the Saviour being, in the highest propriety, the prophetical “ God with us.' --See Pearson, 2d edit. fol. p. 79,

The Hebrew name of Joshua, the son of Nun, exactly coincides in meaning with Jesus the son of Mary, with this single difference, as expressed by the Bishop, that“ Joshua “ saved Israel not by his own power, not of himself, but “God by him; neither saved he his own people, but the

people of God. Whereas Jesus Himself (autos He Him“ self, Matt. i. 21.) by His own power,

the
power

of God, “shall save His own people, the people of God. Well,

therefore, may we understand the interpretation of His pame to be God the Saviour.”—Pearson, ibid.

The view which our church has of the doctrine of this creed may

be collected from her Catechism. « Quest. “What dost thou chiefly learn in these articles of thy “ belief? Ans. First, I learn to believe in God the Father, “ who hath made me and all the world. Secondly, In God “the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind. “ Thirdly, In God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me and "all the elect people of God."

several important and interesting particulars of
our Lord's incarnation, birth, sufferings, death,
resurrection, ascension, and session at the right
hand of God, are then mentioned, in all which
the church of England worshipper is directed to
express his belief; for though the words " I
"believe" are used but twice, they maintain a
connection with every separate article of the
creed. By the declaration "I believe," every
individual avows not only his own assent to the
truth of the proposition, but also his own reli-
ance on it as necessarily affecting his own per-
sonal salvation. How awful is it to consider,
"The Holy
that many who orally repeat our confession of
faith are found liars before God!
"Ghost, who sanctifieth all the elect people of
"God," is not omitted; and while we profess
our faith in His name, we must be supposed to
acknowledge His Divinity, Personality, and
office in the church of Christ. The other arti-
cles introduced are the existence, holiness, and
oneness of the Catholic or universal church;
"the communion of saints," which, as mem-
bers thereof, they enjoy with God and with each
other; the nature and necessity of " the forgive-
"ness of sins;" the certainty of "the resurrec-
"tion of the body;" and "the life everlasting."
"Dost thou
How important is the question,
"believe all the articles of the Christian
"faith?"

The general outline of the doctrine of the creed being thus chalked out, the attention of the reader is requested to that which is the more immediate object of the present essay, viz. the propriety of making a public profession of our faith, and the manner in which that profession must be made, if we expect to be partakers of

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »