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On tlie Apostles' Creed.
THAT part of our liturgy which is commonly 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 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.
* 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 Rotnanus downwards to the time of Augustine, as having positively ascribed Apostolic 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 Apos"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.
"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, f 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
* 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.
f 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 understoodin 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 liele 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."
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 a*sked 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 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
* 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 Aleiin (a "plural noun regularly formed from its singular, and fre*' queutly used with verbs, adjectives, and participles plural) "is one Jehovah." In the compass of these few words the doctriue 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.
* The name Jesus, in Hebrew, is a compound of TC Jah or Jehovah, and JW a Saviour or salvation; so that He to whom 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," soys Bishop PearsOn, " have been invented "to shew the fulfilling of that prophecy, notwithstanding "our Saviour was not called Emmanuel; 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 "GW with us."—See Pearson, 2d edit. fbl. p. 7j).
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 [aurof 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 "name 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" arc used but twice, they maintain a connection with every separate article of the creed. By the declaration "I believe," everv individual avows not only his own assent to the truth of the proposition, but also his own reliance on it as necessarily affecting his own personal salvation. How awful is it to consider, that many who orally repeat our confession of faith are found liars before God! "The Hely "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 articles introduced are the existence, holiness, and oneness of the Catholic or universal church; "the communion of saints," which, as members thereof, they enjoy with God and with each other; the nature and necessity of " the forgive«' ncss of sins;" the certainty of " the resurrec"tion of the body;" and "the life everlasting." How important is the question, "Dost thou "believe all the articles of the Christian
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
'itmriety of making a public profession of our
'i and the manner in which that profession
, be made, if we expect to be partakers of