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most every point, and quite agreeing in every essential and important point, with the Creeds we have, and those which other branches of the Universal Church have kept and handed down.
The manner in which Creeds have been formed has been gradual, and step by step. The Apostles taught their disciples the being of a Godthat in the Godhead there are three Personsthat Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour of the world-that through His name our sins may be forgiven-and that we shall all rise again with our bodies, and be judged according to our works.' These simple articles (or points of belief) may all be gathered out of the writings of the Apostles, which we have in the New Testament. After a while, as heretics sprang up, teaching what was contrary to truth, articles were added to the Creeds, denying the false doctrines of the heretics, and putting forth the truth. Thus, for example, a sect arose, who said that this world was not made by the great God, but a God of a lower order.' To deny this false doctrine, the Christians were taught that it is 'God the Father Almighty, who is the maker of heaven and earth.' Again, there was another sect, who said that 'Jesus Christ was not a real and true man,'-that not Christ but a phantom, (or appearance of a man) had seemed to suffer on the cross.' To oppose this heresy it was added to the Apostle's Creed, that Christ' was crucified, dead, and buried '—that as a real and true man he was 'born of the Virgin Mary-crucified under' (i. e. by the command and in the government of) 'Pontius Pilate'-that he was really 'dead'-and his body laid in a tomb, as any of our's might be..
In later times also, when many different here
sies had arisen by the preaching of false teachers, who, (as St. Peter foretold, 2 Pet. ii. 1) "privily brought in damnable heresies, denying the only Lord God, and his Son Jesus Christ," as these men, the seed of the old Serpent, spread their poisonous falsehoods, it became necessary to guard Christians against them, and for this purpose the Nicene Creed was composed, (so called from Nicé, in Armenia, at which a great general meeting of all the Bishops of every Christian Church was held), and afterwards the Athanasian Creed also was added, the object of which is to defend believers against those heretics-some of whom denied the Trinity-some confounded the different Persons of the Trinity-some denied that 'Christ and the Holy Spirit are God'-some denied that Christ was man -some said 'he was two, and not one Christ.' Thus, then, Creeds grew larger, as fresh forms of false doctrine arose, because each new error made it necessary to have some declaration added to the Creed, in denial of that error.
Thus we have seen that Creeds were at first very short and simple, because Christian truth at first was not attacked by heresies; but as the truths of Christianity were, one by one, either openly attacked or explained away, it became necessary to widen the fence, and increase the outworks, and enlarge the barricades, by which the sacred treasure of Christian doctrine was to be preserved. In countries where no enemies are known, there is no need of any fortresswhere the enemies are rude and unskilled, as well as few, the fortress, which is built to keep them off, will be rude and simple also; but when the enemies are multiplied in number, and when their ways of assault are increased, and their skill in
attacking is improved, and their weapons of annoyance are more numerous and deadly, then they who have to defend themselves must also enlarge their defences, and improve their weapons of resistance in the same proportion, to keep that safe which the others desire to destroy. Exactly in this same way have Creeds become what they now are. The sacred treasure of Christian doctrine, of which the Church is the keeper, is guarded by a triple wall-the strong and simple bulwarks of the Apostles' Creed first defend itthat again is surrounded by the wider and more extended outline of the Nicene Creed, and, as a last defence the outworks of the Faith-theCreed of Saint Athanasius is added, which, like some strong breast-work fenced with iron spikes, has a point ready to keep back almost every form of heresy that could attack the Christian Faith.
Perhaps there is not one part of our Prayer Book against which more objections have been raised, and more attacks made, than the Athanasian Creed. We must all remember, even from childhood, the vehemence and warmth with which even nominal members of our own Church have argued against this uncharitable Creed,' as they have called it.
Now all objections against this, or any other part of our Service, must be against the doctrines contained in it for if there be nothing in it contrary to Scripture, there can be nothing in it which should be objected to. Now we would ask any person who did object to this Creed, candidly to say what doctrine, set forward in this Creed, is contrary to Scripture. We have before mentioned that this Creed was put together especially to guard and defend the Christian Church
against a swarm of different heretics, who either denied or explained away the doctrine of the Trinity, i. e. that there are "three Persons of equal wisdom, power, and goodness, and one God;" or that other great doctrine, that "our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and Man.” We must bear this in mind in reading and examining this Creed. Now keeping this before us, it will explain why we are taught in this Creed not to confound the Persons of the blessed Trinity;' that is, not to mix them up together, so as to make it appear there are not three Persons, as a false teacher called Sabellius did; nor divide the substance;' that is, make it appear there are three Gods, as another did, and so on. One heretic said, 'that the Father was greater than the Son and the Holy Spirit,' it was therefore necessary to declare, that the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is all one, equal, and co-eternal,' i. e. eternal together. Another heretic said, that the Son of God was created,'-thereby making him only equal with the angels. This error made it necessary for us to declare in this Creed, that 'the Son and Holy Spirit are uncreate,' that is, not created. And thus we might (if time allowed us, or it were necessary) go through every article of this Creed, and we should find it set forth either in the very words of Scripture, or (as our eighth article says), that it may be proved by most certain warrant of Holy Scripture.'
But when those who object to this Creed are driven from general statements, the chief objection, which is made against this Creed, is, because it declares at the beginning, that 'whosoever will be saved, must hold the Catholic Faith, which Faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled,
without doubt he shall perish everlastingly;' and again at the end, that except a man believe this faithfully, he cannot be saved.' These are, we believe, the chief points of objection to the use of this Creed; the other difficulties we have endeavoured to explain: let us now consider
He that objects to these strong declarations in this Creed, does in fact object to the same strong words in Scripture, and, by so doing, cavils and finds fault with the Almighty God, who put them there. For, if those parts of the Creeds, against which these persons object, are put into other words, they declare no more than this, that "he who believeth and is baptized, shall be saved," and "he that believeth not, shall be damned." These are Christ's own words, and no words in that Creed are stronger than these.
Our Lord then declares, that, in order to be saved, a man must be baptized and believenow what must he believe?-what he pleases?what he thinks reasonable?-what he can understand?-or what GOD has revealed?-Surely, what God has revealed. But how much of what God has revealed, must he believe? May he select and choose what he will and what he will not believe?-no, he is to believe all; for the same Authority on which he is called to believe any part, requires him to believe every part; and that man who says he believes this and this, but says he cannot or will not believe that, it may well be doubted whether he believes at all. If then we must believe all that God has revealed, and there is nothing in this Creed but what God has revealed, then every thing in this Creed is to be believed, and they who do not believe it, cannot be saved.