« PreviousContinue »
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and that other concerning the Incarnation of Christ, by which God and man were so united as to make one Person, together with the other doctrines that follow these, are those Anathemas denounced; not so as if it were hereby meant that every man who does not believe this, in every tittle, must certainly perish, unless he has been furnished with sufficient means of convietion and that he has rejected them, and hardened himself against them.” It cannot escape the notice even of a superficial reasoner, that the Creed affirms absolutely and universally, what the Bishop says the most eminent Divines of the Church conditionally, and with several limitation's and exceptions, admit, that such as do not hold the doctrines of the Trinity pure and undefiled shall perish everlastingly. The explanation and defence therefore contradict the damnatory clauses of the Creed.-- The Bishop asterwards observes, that “We may believe that some doctrines are necessary to salvation, as well as that there are some commandments necessary for practice ; and we may also believe that some errors as well as some sins are exclusive of salvation, all which imports no more than that we believe that such things are sufficiently revealed, and that they are necessary conditions of salvation ; but by this we do not limit the mercies of God to those who are under such darkness as not to be able to see through it, and to discern and acknowledge these truihs.”-It is no wonder that Archbishop Tillotson, in his letter to the Bishop on this subject said, “ The account given of Athanasius's Creed seems to me no-wise satisfactory." No man can be satisfied, with what it is evident the Bishop was so little satisfied with himself, that his comment contradicts his text. The Archbishop then proceeds to say, “ I wish we were well
rid of it.” Chillingworth observes, “That the damning sentences in St. Athanasius's Creed (as we are made to subscribe it) are false, and also in a high degree presumptuous and schismatical.” The opinion of this great man probably was, when he wrote this censure of the Creed, verging towards Socinianism, in which belief it is certain that he died, and consequently the doctrine of the Creed was nearly as offensive to him as its damnatory elauses.
Even Bishop Horsley, the able Champion of Orthodoxy and of Evangelical religion, disapproved of the damnatory clauses of the Creed. Bishop Tomline, in his Elements of Theology, speaking of it says, “Though I firmly believe that the doctrines of this Creed are all founded in Scripture, I cannot but conceive it to be both unnecessary and presumptuous to say, that except every one do keep them whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."* · On the other hand, the judicious Hooker observes, that · The very Creed of Athanasius, and that sacred Hymn of Glory (the Doxology), than which nothing doth sound more heavenly in the ears of faithful men, are now reckoned as superfluities, which we must in any case pare away, lest we cloy God with too much service. Is there in thạt Confession of Faith, any thing which doth not at all times edifie and instruct the attentive hearer ? or is our faith in the blessed Trinity, a matter needless, to be so oftentimes mentioned and opened in the principal part of that duty which we owe to God, our publick prayer? Hath the Church of Christ, from the first be
• Vol. II, p. 222.
ginning, by a secret universal instinct of God's Spirit, always tied itself to end neither sermon nor almost any speech of moment which hath concerned matters of God, without some special words of honour and glory to that Trinity, which we all adore : and is the like conclusion of Psalms become now at length an eye-sore or a galling to their ears that hear it ?” Speaking afterwards of the blasphemies of the Arians, Samosalenians, Tritheists, Eutychians, and Macedonians, he says, “ who to hatch their heresie, have chosen those Churches as fittest nests where Athanasius's Creed is not heard."*
The venerable Bishop Beveridge thus speaks of the Athanasian Creed. “This incomparable Creed some think Anastatius, others Eusebius Vercellensis, others some learned Frenchman made ; but the most and the ancientest ascribe it to Athanasius. And truly though we can. not produce any certain argument from whence to prove it, yet this we know, that there is nothing in it (especially in the Greek copies) but what is consonant to his other works; and that it hath been received in the Church under his name for above these four hundred, yea for above these eight hundred years together. For Hincmarus that lived Anno Domini 850, commands his Presbyters, that every one would commit to his memory the words of Athanasius concerning Faith, the beginning whereof is, Whosoever will be saved, and understand the sense of it, and so be able to pronounce it in common words.'
“But howsoever, whether Athanasius was the author of it or no, be sure the Creed before rehearsed is the Creed that goes under his name, and by consequence that which
Ecclesiastical Polity, Book v.
we are to understand in this article by Athanasius's Creed, it going under that name, as in others, so in our Liturgy in particular. And it containing nothing but what is, somewhere or other in these Articles proved by Scripture, reason, and the Fathers; the doctrine of it must needs be received as true and consonant to the word of God."*
Mr. Wheatly, in his Rational Hlustration of the Book of Common Prayer, observes, “ Whether this Creed was composed by Athanasius or not, is matter of dispute. In the Rubrick before it, as enlarged at the Review, it is only said to be commonly called the Creed of St. Athanasius : but we are certain, that it has been received as a treasure of inestimable price, both by the Greek and Latin Churches for almost a thousand years.
" As to the matter of it, it condemns all ancient and modern heresies, and is the sum of all Orthodox Divinity. And, therefore, if any scruple at the denying salvation to such as do not believe these articles, let them remember, that such as hold any of those fundamental heresies are condemned in Scripture: from whence it was a primitive custom, after a confession of the orthodox faith, to pass an anathema against all that denied it. But, how. ever, for the ease and satisfaction of some people who have a notion that this Creed requires every person to assent to, or believe, every verse in it on pain of Damnation; and who therefore (because there are several things in it which they cannot comprehend) scruple to repeat it for fear they should anathematize, or condemn themselves; I desire to offer what follows to their consideration, viz. That however plain and agreeable to
• Exposition of the Thirty Nine Articles. Article vụs.
reason every verse in this Creed may be ; yet we are not required, by the words of the Creed, to believe the whole on pain of damnation. For all that is required of us as necessary to salvation, is, that before all things we hold the Catholic Faith; and the Catholic Faith is, by the third and fourth verses explained to be this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance. This therefore is declared necessary to be believed : But all that follows from hence to the twenty sixth verse, is only brought as a proof and illustration of it; and therefore requires our assent no more than a sermon does which is made to prove or illustrate a text. The text we know is the word of God, and therefore necessary to be believed; but no person is, for that reason bound to believe every particular of the sermon deduced from it, upon pain of damnation, though every tittle of it may be true. The same I take to be in this Creed: The belief of the Catholic Faith before mentioned, the Scripture makes necessary to salvation, and therefore we must believe it: but there is no such necessity laid upon us to believe the illustration that is there given of it; nor does the Creed itself require it: for it goes on in the twenty sixth and twenty seventh verses, in these words, so that in all things as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped: He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity. Where it plainly passes off from that illustration, and returns back to the fourth and fifth verses, requiring only our belief of the Catholic Faith, as there expressed, as necessary to salvation, viz. That One God, or Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. All the rest of the Creed, from the