Imágenes de páginas

eternal predestination; the purchase is made through the merits and satisfaction of Christ, and the application by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit; and then they proceed to infer, that not only these things themselves, but all questions appertaining to them, are necessary to be known in order to salvation. Others argue thus; Christ is the Foundation, according to the Apostle, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But say they, in Christ there are several things to be distinctly considered ; as, his person, twofold nature, different states, his offices, and benefits. To which heads it is very plain, that innumerable questions, if not all in divinity may easily be referred. But they who argue in this manner, though they say nothing but what is true, and indeed of very great moment, yet their mistake lies in this ; they confound what was necessary to be done in order to procure salvation, with what is necessary to be known; which two things are very different, as is plain by considering the case of infants, of persons that are deaf, or distracted, and of the patriarchs in the Old Testament. The thing may be illustrated by a similitude taken from our food; every one knows, that abundance of things are requisite to the digestion and separation of our food ; and yet no body ever said that these things were necessary to be known, in order to receive nourishment from it. * 1 Cor. iii. 11.

Hitherto we have rejected those marks, which to us seem faulty, by containing too much. There are others no less faulty, for requiring too little. From these therefore the next mark is taken.

4. Those things only are fundamental, which have been received by all christians, and in all ages. If this rule be right, I fear it will utterly destroy all fundamentals at once ; for, from the very times of the Apostles, there have been teachers who have called themselves christians, and yet have attempted to overthrow some of the principal and most necessary things in christianity. Thus some have denied the Resurrection of the Body, and some that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh ;* some have affirmed, that the ceremonies of the law are necessary to salvation, and others have even denied the necessity of good works; as is evident from many places in the Epistles. So that many of the teachers of those times, even of those who called themselves christians, are said to be antichrists, liars, false prophets, denying the Lord that bought them. And every one knows, that not long after, there arose many pestilent sects among christians; as the Gnosticks, the Marcionites, the Manichees, who denied some doctrines of the utmost importance, as the Unity of God, the necessity of good works, and of suffering martyrdom in defence of the truth when called to it. If this rule, therefore,

* 1 Cor. xv. 2 Tim, ii. 18, 1 John iv. 3.

which we now oppose, be true, it will hardly leave any thing at all that is fundamental.

5. Some limit the foundation of religion within such narrow bounds, that they allow nothing to be a fundamental, but to obey the divine precepts, and to trust in the promises of the Gospel; which is another mark that we reject. We own, indeed, that obedience is the end, and therefore a principal part of religion; for as Christ told his disciples, “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;” and St. Paul testifies, that “the end of the commandment is charity;” and St. James, “Pure religion and undefiled, is to visit the fatherless and widows, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world.” But if we would speak accurately, we cannot say, that the whole essence of religion does consist in obedience, and trust in God, and in nothing else; for there must be some truths known by the light of nature, and others revealed by God, upon which our obedience and trust must be founded ; which do therefore make part of the foundation, according as St. Paul teaches us in the forecited place. “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is,” &c.; And Christ, “This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.j

6. Some will have the Apostles' Creed, as it is commonly called, to be the standard and measure of fundamentals; and we do not deny but this hypothesis comes the nearest to truth, of which more hereafter; yet for some reasons we cannot entirely acquiesce in this opinion. For, First, it is agreed among learned men, that this creed was not composed by the Apostles, but long after their time, and that the copies of it differed in some articles; there is, therefore, no reason why so much authority should be given to a human composure, though ever so ancient and venerable, as that the terms of salvation should be thought to depend upon it.* Secondly, neither does every thing inserted into this Creed seem to be of so great importance, that a man cannot be saved without the knowledge thereof. Thus, if a person should be ignorant of what is there said of Christ's descent into hell, of the name of Pontius Pilate, and some other things, which were put in, in opposition to some errors that are now out of date, it cannot be thought that his salvation would be hazarded hereby. Thirdly, on the other hand, there are some things no less necessary to be known than to be done, which yet are wanting in this Creed, namely, those principles of religion, which direct and inform our practice. Therefore, passing by these and such like criterions, which are not founded upon sufficient reason, we shall endeavour to produce some rules, which seem to be better grounded, and may more safely be depended upon.

* John. xiii. 17. 1 Tim. i. 5. James i. 27. + Heb. xi. 6. # John xvii. 3.

* Ambrose was the first, who is known to have attributed this Creed to the Apostles about four hundred years after Christ; and Rufinus not much later ascribes to it the same origin. Leo Magnus, Jerom, John Cassian, and many other writers of celebrity at that period, gave credit to Ambrose and Rufinus, and spoke of the Creed as the work of the Apostles. It even became a popular notion, that every Apostle contributed a part; and in a sermon ascribed to Austin, the Creed is divided into twelve articles, and each article is assigned to its particular author.

But these accounts have long been known to be fabulous; and although some articles of the Creed were early in use, no evidence remains of any part having been the work of the Apostles, or that it was considered as such before the commencement of the fifth century. This Creed underwent many variations from in to time, and in different churches it was usually clothed with a different dress. There was the Grecian Creed used by Irenaeus, the Creeds of Carthage quoted by Tertullian, that of Aquileia mentioned by Ruffinus, that of Ravenna, and that of Turin explained by Maximus, and many others scattered through the ancient writings. Each of these was called the Apostles' Creed, although they differed essentially among themselves. Rufinus states, that the Descent into Hell was neither in the

Roman nor Oriental Creeds; and bishops Burnet and Pearson affirm, that this clause was not inserted till the fifth century. Nor was the Communion of Saints found in any copy of the Creed till about the same period; and the clause, Life Everlasting, was omitted in many copies while it was contained in others. The Holy Church was first mentioned as an article of the Creed by Tertullian in the third century. It was not till after the time of Tertullian that this article was enlarged by inserting the word Catholic. These are some of the more prominent changes in the Creed, after it became a symbol in general use among the churches. Many others of minor importance might be enumerated, but these are enough to prove its uncertain origin, and that it can have no authority in settling the articles of Christian faith. See King's History of the Apostles' Creed, Chap. ii, and v.–Pearson on the Creed, Vol. i. p. 341; Vol. ii. p. 287. ED

« AnteriorContinuar »