صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

towards the maintainers of heretical opinions. It was thought, till experience slowly proved the contrary, that false doctrine was to be extirpated by persecution, and excluded by vehemence of denunciation. The principles of toleration were the growth of a later age. No portion of this formulary was, perhaps, responded to with more favour at its first promulgation, than the sentences which declare the condemnation of those who dissent from its definition of the faith. These 'damnatory clauses,' however, have in modern times given offence to many persons who make no objection to the substance of the Creed. The prelates who were appointed to review the Prayer Book in 1689, endeavoured to remove the scruples which were entertained on this subject. They framed a rubric, explaining that the condemning clauses are to be understood as relating only to those who obstinately deny the substance of the Christian faith.' This explanation, though not embodied in a rubric, is generally adopted by the divines who have written in defence of the Creed, and it is in conformity with Mark xvi. 16: 'He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.' It might have been a judicious course to omit

[ocr errors]

by arch


the clauses in question, as Dr Waterland suggests; but a great unwillingness must always have been felt to mutilate a formulary, which, though not promulgated by the authority of a general council, has had universal reception. for so many centuries. The following remarks of Archbishop Secker on this subject are worthy of consideration: The condemnation, Explained contained in two or three clauses of this bishop Creed, belongs (as the most zealous defenders of our faith in the holy Trinity agree, and as every one who reads it considerately will soon perceive) not to all, who cannot understand, or cannot approve, every expression in it, but only to such as deny the "Trinity in Unity," or "three Persons in one God." "This" alone is said to be "the Catholic faith." The words that follow after "for there is one person of the Father," and so on, are designed only to set this forth more particularly. Our condemnation is no more hard and uncharitable than our Saviour's is at Mark xvi. 16. And neither is so; because both are to be interpreted with due exceptions and abatements. Suppose a collection of Christian duties had been drawn up, and it had been said in the beginning or at the end of it, "this is the Catholic practice, which except a man observe faithfully, he can

not be saved;" would not every one understand, that allowance must be made for such things, as a man through involuntary ignorance mistook, or through mere infirmity failed in, or was truly sorry for, so far as he knew he had cause? Why then are not the same allowances to be understood in speaking of doctrines? For when the Creed says that "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith," it doth not mean that true faith is more necessary than right practice, but that naturally it precedes it, and is to be first learnt in order to it. The intention therefore of the Creed, as well as of our Lord in the Gospel, is only to say, that whoever rejects the doctrine of it from presumptuous self-opinion, or wilful negligence, and doth not afterward repent of these faults; particularly if he is made sensible of them; or if not, at least in general, among his unknown sins; the case of such a one is desperate. But if want of information, weakness of apprehension, or even excusable wrongness of disposition, should make him doubt or disbelieve any or the main part of this Creed; nay, which is vastly a worse case, the whole revelation of Christianity; though we pass judgment on his errors without re

serve, and generally on all who maintain them, yet personally and singly we presume not to judge of his condition in the next world. "To his own master he standeth or falleth." Rom. xiv. 4.'

the Creed.

We may observe that this Creed consists, Object of in a great measure, of negations. It was manifestly drawn up for the purpose of contradicting and excluding certain heretical opinions, which were at the time in circulation, respecting the doctrine of the Trinity, and the union of the divine and human natures in our blessed Lord. At the present day, therefore, it may well be found obscure by the unlearned, who are without any knowledge of those heresies. By some persons it is thought not only obscure, but presumptuous; because, as they say, it attempts to penetrate inscrutable mysteries: whereas it is itself a protest against the presumptuous definitions which had been already hazarded; and it is only for the purpose of rebutting them that it has recourse to any positive statements of doctrine. No one is qualified to understand, and much less to criticise the terms of this Creed, till he has informed himself of the religious controversies which were rife at the time when it was composed. It has been said, that we do not wisely, to

How often and in what



retain in our public services a formulary, which, to a great portion of our people, is unintelligible. But to this it may be replied, that we cannot safely lay aside a bulwark which has been instrumental in protecting the Church against a set of opinions at one time very prevalent, and even now by no means extinct.

The Creed was recited every Sunday, according to the offices of the unreformed Church, but neither this nor any other Creed was used in the daily service. Our reformers ordered it to be used only on certain days, the great festivals of the Church, and certain Saints' days, which were so selected that it might be repeated about once a month; and on other days the Apostles' Creed was appointed to be said. It was formerly sung, like the Psalms, and was designated by the title of the Psalm Quicunque. And the custom is still retained of repeating it in alternate verses, and sometimes of chanting it, in the same manner as the Psalms. The structure of this hymn,' as Mr Jebb observes, 'is most artificial, and in strict accordance with the rules of Hebrew composition, so as to present a poetical character fit for choral recitation'.'

On the Choral Service of the Church.

« السابقةمتابعة »