« FöregåendeFortsätt »
So much as to what is meant by saying, that such or such a precept is binding under mortal sin: and now as to the particular precept declared in the Athanasian Creed. The Catholic explanation of this, as we understand the matter, proceeds on the following basis. God has revealed a certain definite doctrine on the Trinity and the Incarnation; and the statements of the Athanasian Creed, so far as they go, give the one true analysis of the doctrine. As Mr. MacColl admirably
There is not a single proposition in the Athanasian Creed, of which the rejection does not involve the rejection of Christianity. I make that assertion without the least hesitation, and I challenge all the gainsayers of the Creed to disprove it. Of course a person may from prejudice, or ignorance, or confusion of thought, or some other cause, be unable to embrace some of the propositions of the Creed, and yet remain all the while a good Christian. It is none the less true, however, that all the propositions of the Creed hang together, and that the rejection of any one of them would strike Christianity to the heart. (pp. 169, 170.)
In other words, no one can possibly hold in substance the revealed dogmata of the Trinity and Incarnation, while he rejects one single particle of the Athanasian exposition-except through intellectualinconsistency and inconsecutiveness. These dogmata may be apprehended by different Christians with a greater or less amount of definiteness and explicitness, according to the circumstances of each man's individual case: but they remain the same dogmata nevertheless. The rudest peasant cither holds (truly however imperfectly) the very doctrine set forth in the Athanasian Creed, or does not hold at all the revealed dogmata of the Trinity and the Incarnation. God has imposed on every Christian (not here to speak of other men) the grave precept, of holding faithfully these two dogmata. He has commanded every Christian-affirmatively, to accept them, and from time to time elicit acts of faith in them ;-negatively, never on any account to accept any tenet inconsistent with them.
One or two little explanations remain to be added. The Athanasian Creed (it seems to us) does not primarily speak of any except Catholics. Its direct purpose is to be chanted in Catholic worship; and its true purport will therefore best be understood perhaps, by adding the word “ nostrûm" after “quicunque.” “Whoever” of us “wills to be saved, before all
“ things," i. e. as the foundation of all else," he must hold," retain, cleave to,“ the Catholic Faith : which Faith unless each one ” of us “shall have preserved, &c., &c.” We have here implied our second explanation. “Ante omnia " is not
equivalent to "præ omnibus”:* the Creed does not express any judgment one way or other, on the comparative importance of faith and morals respectively ; it does but declare, that the former is the first step towards salvation, and the foundation on which the latter is built. Lastly the Creed by no meaus either declares or implies, that belief in the Trivity and Incarnation is required “necessitate medii ” (to use theological language), as well as “necessitate præcepti.” The large majority, we think, of modern Catholic theologians consider, that faith in “Deus unus et remunerator" may lead to justification, where there is invincible ignorance of the Trinity and Incarnation : and those who think this, certainly find no difficulty on that account in the Athanasian Creed.
So much on what a Catholic theologian would understand by these "damnatory clauses"; and such, we take it, is substantially the doctrine, for which Mr. MacColl and Dr. Pusey are contending. The vast majority of Anglicans on the contrary reject that doctrine; and we will proceed to recount some of the different classes, into which these objectors may be divided.
The first class was more numerous some thirty years ago, than it is now; though it is still very widely extended. It consists of those who draw an emphatic distinction between the substance itself of the two dogmata on one hand, and what they would call the scholastic and unscriptural subtleties of the Creed on the other. We doubt if any man of vigorous and clear mind adheres now to this most shallow view. As Mr. MacColl points out in a passage we have quoted,- to reject any one of these “subtleties, is virtually to reject the
' dogmata themselves. And in fact those who adopt this view do not in general really accept the revealed doctrine on the Trinity and Incarnation.
A second class of objectors will admit, that those who believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation, enjoy therein an inappreciable blessing. Nevertheless they denur to the “damnatory clauses." “The doctrinal precept imposed by God,” such a thinker will say, “is to accept and study the Scripture. Those who cannot find these two dogmata in Scripture, are (I hold) gravely mistaken; just as there is many an interpretation of Thucydides such, that those who reject it are without doubt gravely mistaken. But if any man has studied Scripture, he has obeyed God's precept; and I
* This remark did not originate with ourselves, but we have not before seen it in print.
† “Fides est humanæ salutis initium, fundamentum et radix omnis justificationis.”- Conc. Trid.
vot. Xix.- NO. XXXVIII. [Now Scrics.]
cannot imply the reverse,” We think this is the only view of the matter which can reasonably be accepted, by those who regard Scripture as the sole Rule of Faith. Or in other words, -as the Tractarian writers often pointed out in days of old, -to accept the Athanasian Creed, is by necessary consequence to deny that Scripture is the sole Rule of Faith.
A third class of objectors were comparatively few in the Establishment thirty years back, but now swarm through it like locusts in every direction. They deny that any one doctrine on the Trinity and Incarnation is really the doctrine of Scripture. Scripture, they say, was intended to be interpreted diversely by divers readers, according to the spiritual tastes and needs of each individual. These men of course detest the Athanasian Creed, with a hatred at once bitter and contemptuous; and among those who profess in any sense to accept Christianity, this is the only form of liberalism (we think) which possesses intellectual life. It is really important that Catholics shall from time to time contemplate and grapple with this subtle and most deadly error; while as to high-church Anglicanism on one side or other phases of Protestantism on the other, they may almost be left to sink under their own weight.*
We have recited then the chief doctrinal views prevalent among Anglicans, which in different ways contradict the Athanasian Creed ; and we need hardly say that we wish Mr. MacColl and Dr. Pasey every possible success, in opposing those views. As to the character of the Creed, we cannot do better than avail ourselves of F. Newman's expressive language. “
“It is a psalm or hymn” he says “of praise and of confession and of profound self-prostrating homage, parallel to the canticles of the elect in the Apocalypse. It appeals to the imagination quite as much as to the intellect. It is the war-song of faith, with which we warn first ourselves, then each other, then all those who are within its hearing and the hearing of the Truth, who our God is, and how we must worship Him, and how vast our responsibility will be, if we know what to believe and yet believe not.” † All this is beautifully and truly said: though few Catholics perhaps would go F. Newman's length — certainly we should not in accounting the Athanasian Creed a more "devotional formulary,” even than the 'Veni Creator' and the Te Deum.')
* When we say that high-churchism may almost be left to sink under its own weight, we refer of course to its characteristic tenets, not to the dogmata which it holds in common with the Catholic Church.
+ Grammar of Assent, p. 129.
A further observation is very important. Those who are invincibly ignorant of the two Christian dogmata set forth in the Creed, -though they will not of course be punished for such ignorance-yet therein suffer a great calamity; and lose a help of unspeakable importance, towards growth in the love of God. Mr. MacColl has some very valuable and thoughtful remarks, from p. 90 to p. 124, on the intimate connection between faith and morals: though here also--if the subject were to be treated at all—we desiderate more expansion. The following paragraph impresses us as singularly complete and true. The author had set forth the hideous wickedness of even the most cultivated and intellectual heathenism : he then thus proceeds.
But if mere intellectual cultivation could not recall men to the “ways of pleasantness” and the paths of peace, what else could ? Speaking in the rough, it may be said that three things were necessary : a right object of love ; a revelation of God's will and of the true relations between man and his Maker, with a teacher having authority to enforce it ; and spiritual power to enable man to work out his own salvation.” These three desiderata Christianity professes to have supplied. (p. 97.)
Still more complete is Mr. MacColl's reply to Dean Stanley, on a very momentous Scriptural question. “Both our Lord Himself,” he says, "and the inspired writers of the New Testament, insist on the necessity of a right faith, as strongly as they do on the necessity of moral rectitude" (p. 162). He thus quotes the Dean's words, denying this; and proceeds as follows. The vital importance of the question is our excuse for the length of our quotation. We italicize one or two sentences.
“This is life eternal,” says our Lord, "that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Again ; when the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God ?” Jesus answered and said unto them, “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” And when He warns evil-doers of the doom that awaits them He tells them that “ He will appoint them their portion with the unbelievers.” Here our loving Saviour Himself puts immoral living and pertinacious unbelief on the same level, and He even seems to intimate that unbelief is the more dangerous of the two. The first condition of " doing the works of God” is a right belief as to the doctrine of the Incarnation : “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” Hold that faith in sincerity, and “the works of God” will follow as a natural consequence.* Reject it with your eyes open, and you place yourself outside the pale of salvation. For “God so loved the world that He gave His only
* This phrase is liable to be misunderstood.--Ed. D. R.
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on Him not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” Nothing can be plainer than this. To forfeit “everlasting life,” that is, to "perish,” is here declared to be the lot of him who refuses to believe in the doctrine of the Incarnation. So far forth as a man rejects that doctrine he is "condemned already”-that is to say, he has, ipso facto, placed himself beyond the pale of salvation.
This is our Lord's teaching, and the whole scope of the New Testament confirms it. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?" the Apostle replied immediately, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." John the Baptist certainly enjoined “works meet for repentance" on those who flocked to consult him by the banks of Jordan ; but he also said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life ; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is equally urgent as to the necessity of a true faith. “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” And again ; “He that hath the Son hath life ; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” Not to have life is to “perish,” and therefore perdition is declared by S. John to be the inevitable doom of those who reject the doctrine of the Incarnation. And he deemed this truth so paramount, that it was the principle motive of his writing his Epistle. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Again : “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God. But every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.” Again : “Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh : this is a deceiver and an antichrist.” Once more : "Look to yourselves, that ye lose not those things which ye have wrought ; but that ye receive a full reward. Whoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” To the same purport is S. Peter's denunciation of those “false teachers” “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways (Taïç á Twiciais); by reason of whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed.” Here the denial of the Incarnation is said to be a “damnable heresy” (aipéoets åtwlciais), leading to "swift destruction.” And the same doctrine is taught by the Apostle as the direct inspiration of the Pentecostal gift. Immediately after the outpouring of Pentecost he told the Jews that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth alone” was salvation to be found : "for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Will any one tell me the difference between this Apostolic doctrine and the much-abused proposition of the Athanasian Creed : “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly"? The large-hearted S. Paul, too, who was willing to be "accursed ” for the sake of