Изображения страниц

practice can we believe that salvation, such as the Apostles taught, is by any stretch of charity to be found among them.

The Creed is divided into two chief parts. That which treats first of the two natures-the divine and the human; secondly, of the One Divine Person; and the particular doctrines either directly revealed by the Apostles, or which follow by inevitable deduction of reason from them are fully and carefully taught.

It is difficult to see what objection to the great subject matter of the Creed any one could have, unless he thought it doubtful or untrue that there were those two natures, and one person in CHRIST, unless he either denied that He is GOD, or thought it doubtful and not a point of belief necessary to salvation; or denied that He was man. In either case he may have his opinion, but then he will have to show how in the result we can be saved by the sacrifice of one who was either not GOD perfectly or not man perfectly. If he says that the Church has no right to utter those clauses even against those that are outside-Gnostics and heretics-there we join issue. A ship of war fires her own guns not to annoy the enemy only, but, and chiefly it may be, to protect < her own crew; and on a view of what the particular doctrines were which are condemned by the Creed, few, I think, would say that the Church had not a right to condemn and warn her own members against them in the strongest manner possible.

We will state the several doctrines laid down that are taught and required to be believed, and then contrast them with those which were antagonistic to them and which are therefore condemned.

The first is, that we worship one GOD in Trinity and Trinity in unity.

We believe, that by the acknowledgment of the FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST, three distinct Persons performing distinct personal acts, though with general harmony of all, but forming one only GOD and not three Gods, we are, so far, believing truth, and therefore, so far also in the way of salvation.

The antagonistic doctrines taught quite differently, disagreeing much, however, among themselves. The Jewish doctrine was that there was one only Divine Person in the Godhead, JEHOVAH Himself alone: that the SON was called Son by adoption, and for His goodness and grace personally, but that He was not the natural essential Son, coequal and one in essence and nature with the FATHER, but subordinate personally as being Son; and the HOLY GHOST OF SPIRIT they took

to be only an influence, not a person, as we use the word spirit when we say, "the spirit of a man's writings," "the spirit of the age," &c.

The Gnostic or philosophic doctrine taught by Arius and derived from Antioch and Paul, mentioned before, was precisely the same. The FATHER, GOD; the SON, man only, but chosen, not begotten, to be the SON," as S. Peter or S. Paul might have been, had they been good enough."

Some of the purer Gnostics who were outside the Church, made the SON to be an æon or angel, as S. Epiphanius among others teaches us.

The Easterns, remnants of the original followers of Zoroaster, and mostly fire-worshippers, taught that there were two distinct Gods, one by nature good, the other evil. The first they called the God of Light (Ormuzd,) the second the God of Darkness (Ahraman.)

Where then is the hardship, or want of charity, or error in the Church, to say that those who follow any of these wrong systems of belief cannot be saved? i.e., unless, which is understood, we acknowledge that the FATHER as GOD in Nature, and FATHER in Person, willed and planned our redemption, and that the SON as GOD with power, and SON with submission worked out the Atonement, and that the HOLY GHOST in essence as GOD with power to sanctify, as a Person is Giver of that sanctification. How or from what source can salvation come? Not from the SON as man only, or from the HOLY GHOST as merely an influence within created limits. Not from an evil God with equal power as the good One, and therefore able to counteract His deeds, and in fact, as they taught from what they supposed they saw, the more powerful of the two, and therefore the rather of the two to be propitiated.

This for the first article of the Creed. The clauses are directed against all false ideas of GOD and the Godhead. The dogma protected, and built up, and maintained, and not therefore condemned, but developed and insisted upon, is the true doctrine. The condemnation is for those who deny the Son, with Jews and Arians; or the HOLY GHOST with Arians and Macedonians (rendering their salvation at some point impossible;) or who believe in the evil God with the Persians, making, in fact, Satan to be God. Who can say that such a condemnation shows any want of charity in the Church, or that its 1 Arius ap. Theodoretum.

absence would not show want of faithfulness to the great trust of keeping and guarding the revealed body of doctrine ?

Next, we are warned against those who first, confound the Persons, or secondly, divide the Substance of the Divine Trinity.

Some African divines in the third century held that there was no difference between the FATHER and the SON as Persons, but that the FATHER United Himself to a man [CHRIST,] and Himself died on the Cross. But again, unless there are three distinct Persons, doing each a peculiar and distinctive work, on some point our salvation is not achieved, and then we must believe the assertions of mere human reasoners rather than Scripture. Scripture teaches the FATHER of Himself, the SON by generation, the HOLY GHOST by procession, from eternity. If this is not truth, the Scripture does not teach truth, and nothing in it need nor can surely and certainly be believed. But, having the choice, if we reject, knowingly and wilfully, the teaching of GOD, and if we join those who reject it—even so far it is self-evident, hardly needs any "damnatory clause" to tell us that we shall not be saved by what we reject.

And indeed to those who understand the doctrines against which they are directed, the damnatory clauses seem almost superfluous, being self-evident.

The next few clauses refer first, to the true nature and manner of existence of the Godhead, and secondly, to the Three Persons which make it up.

It is said that each Person is in nature (1) Uncreate, (2) Incomprehensible, (that is, not contained or comprehended in space,) and (3) Almighty. To believe that God is created is to believe a contradiction in terms. Some one then must have created Him. So to believe that space can bound or contain Him, and thus is more extensive than He, or that His power is limited-in any of these cases GOD is not God but a creature. Some did believe that the SON was a kind of created God, others that He was merely man, and nothing more. The force of these clauses is no doubt chiefly directed against the Greek philosophy, which taught that GOD was not almighty, seeing that He did not and could not create matter or the world, but could at most arrange its surface into seas, plains, mountains, &c., as a gardener can arrange his garden." And they did not believe the Unity of GOD, but taught the plurality of gods and goddesses, Jupiter, Mars, Juno, &c., and that these gods were confined to space, and

[ocr errors]

passed from one place to another; not having any idea of a God who is and must necessarily be everywhere and fill all space. The Jews alone of all ancient nations held that GOD actually created matter out of nothing." He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it was created." Ps. cxlviii. 5. The rest believed that matter was co-eternal with GOD, and as it was not created by Him, so that it never could be destroyed, but would exist as now for ever. It would be no new thing to be told by authority that if we believe thus of GOD, we cannot be saved by such belief, because we are in fact not believing in a God at all.

The next thing is the manner of the existence of the Three Persons. The FATHER of Himself, the SoN by generation, the HOLY GHOST by procession.

We do not know, as regards GOD, what is meant by generation or procession, or how either differs from the other. This the Divine Mind alone can contain and comprehend. But some distinction between generation and procession there must be, or (as has been observed before, e.g. by Theodoret) if there were only generation, there would be two SONS and no HOLY GHOST: if only procession, there would be two HOLY GHOSTS and no SON, and each does sometimes a distinctive action, as when the FATHER creates, the SON redeems, and the HOLY GHOST sanctifies. Sometimes all do the same as when the FATHER ordained S. Paul (Gal. i. 15,) and the Son ordained him, (Acts xxii. 21,) and the HOLY GHOST ordained him, (Acts xiii, 2.) But if there is not

a distinct act of Redemption, we are not saved: if not a distinct act of sanctification, the Redemption has not been applied to us, and we are not under grace but under nature, and are where we were before the Redemption was worked out for us and purchased for us.

This has all been denied by one heresy or another, in parts or in whole; and of those who denied it, how can it be doubted, that so far, and as far as we know, and have it revealed, they cannot be saved? The heresy in the Church which denied the Godhead of the SON began with saying that He was not of one substance with the FATHER, but of a similar one, as an angel might be, or as the souls of men which are spirit and not matter: then that He was only "like," as our breath might be, which is invisible and impalpable to the touch. Then, that He was unlike, and so descended to what we should call the lowest depths of blasphemy.

And certainly, whatever we call these ideas, it is almost a truism to

say to those who hold them, that they cannot be saved by them into Christian salvation, and by anything that CHRIST has done for them.

The Church's system of doctrine is that salvation begins from the atonement of One who as God has power to pay, and more than pay, man's debt, and whose blood, even one drop of it, because it was GOD's in human nature, did more than pay it. If He were only man, we say that the salvation of men could no more have been wrought out by Him than by any other mere man; and again, the Church has a right to use her weapons for the protection of those within her ranks. No clause of the Creed says that A, B or C, individuals holding such an opinion cannot be saved, but that heresy in itself, and intrinsically, cannot and does not lead to salvation, but the contrary. "This is the great high road to your journey's end. There is no other. If you go off into any by-road, or lane, or path of your own, I warn you most emphatically that you will fall into all sorts of difficulties, and end with losing your way entirely." One who should say this to a traveller would hardly be thought uncharitable; though the traveller, if such caution had not been given, might have had reason to say, "Why did you not warn me?"

This ends the first part of the Creed. The second treats of the Incarnation, and lays down the one only system of doctrine which can follow from that truth. As this part treats of points less plain and broad than the other, the clauses which refer to it have been thought more hard, and more harsh and unjustifiable; but are they really so?

Granting for argument's sake that the road is more narrow and intricate, is it therefore the truth that guidance and direction are less called for?

The first particular doctrine laid down in this part is, that our LORD is "of a reasonable soul and human flesh." It might have been thought that being admitted to be man at all, there could at least be no doubt on these two points; but some of those [Gnostics] outside the Church, to carry out their idea that CHRIST as man was to be a sort of superhuman man, taught that His Body and Flesh were celestial body and flesh, and came, some said, from Heaven, others from the sun or one of the planets, and that it took nothing of the Virgin Mary, merely passing through her body as "water through a pipe." Tertullian confuted these from Ps. xxii., "Thou art He that took me out of my mother's womb : Thou wast my hope when I hanged yet upon my mother's breast." ver. 9.

We know without the need of any "damnatory" clause that men

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »