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tory clauses, or clauses which assert the everlasting damnation of all who do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, and which is ordered to be read thirteen times every year, in every parish Church in England and Ireland, has given occasion to much iavective from Unitarian Dissenters, who reprobate the uncharitableness of devoutly fulminating Anathemas against those, who cannot embrace a doctrine they think pregnant with con, tradictions, and especially when incumbered with definitions and distinctions still more perplexing and unsatisfactory. The practice of many Clergymen who subscribe it, and who read it in the solemn worship of God, and yet are not ashamed to publish to the world, that they not only do not believe its damnatory clauses, but condemn them as presumptaous, has given much just offence to all men of integrity and candour. Were any man to do the same thing, in violating every dictate of sincerity, in a Court of Justice, or in transacting the ordinary business of society, which these men do in the offices of Religion, and in the presence and worship of Almighty God, their conduct would meet the severest reprehension from every man of common honesty. The Unitarians say, that this Creed bears falsehood on its very face, as it claims to be the Creed of St. Athanasius ; whereas the learned agree that it was unknown to the Christian world for some centuries after his death ; though they are not unanimous in their opinions, with respect to the person who composed it. But with this question, he who subscribes, and he who reads the Creed, as a part of the Church service, has nothing to do ; for in the Rubrick it is only said to be commonly called the Creed of St. Alhanasius. The doctrine which it contains is allowed by all the Orthodox to be Scriptural and sound, though some of them think the distinctions too subtle and nice, to command the rational assent of an ordinary congregation. Dean Swift speaking of it, says, « This Creed is now read at certain times in our Churches, which although it is useful for edification to those who understand it, yet since it contains some nice and philosophical points, which few people can comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more than the Scripture doctrine, as I have delivered it, because that Creed was intended only as an answer to the Arians in their own way, who were very subtle disputers."*
Bishop Burnet, in his exposition of the Eighth Article, observes, “There is one great difficulty that rises out of several expressions in this Creed, in which it is said that whosoever will be saved must believe it; that the belief of it is necessary to salvation; and that such as do not hold it pure and undefiled, shall without doubt perish everlastingly; where many explanations of a mystery hard to be understood are made indispensably necessary to salvation ; and it is affirmed that all who do not so believe must perish everlastingly.” The Bishop then proceeds to state the answer given by the most eminent men of the Church, so far as his memory could recollect, which is this; “ That these condemnatory expressions are only to be understood to relate to those who, having the means of instruction offered to them, have rejected them and have stifled their own convictions, holding the truth in unrighteousness, and choosing darkness rather than light. Upon such as do thus reject this great article of the Christian doctrine, concerning one God and Three Persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and that other conceroing the Incarnation of Christ, by which God and man were so united as to make one Person, together with the other dootrines that follow these, are those Adathemas 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 conviction 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 limitations and exceptions, admit, that such as do not bold 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 afterwards 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 mer. eies of God to those who are under such darkness as not to be able to see through it, and to discern and acknow. ledge these truths.”-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 commeut 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 clauses.
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 unneces. sary 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 that 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 often times 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. 11, 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, Euty. chians, 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 cannot 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 ander 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 begivning 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.