Obrazy na stronie

and for long time (till ambition and avarice, and the consequences of general confusion, ignorance, corruption, overspreading the earth, did soil it) the fairest perhaps and most sober church in the world; that it was, I say, in so illustrious a place, so near the apostles' time, made and used, (and might thence seem probably to derive from some of them,) may conciliate much respect thereto: but yet since it is not thoroughly certain that it was composed by any of them, nor hath obtained the same authority with their undoubted writings, whatever is therein contained must be explained according to and be proved by them; and cannot otherwise constrain our faith: and indeed divers authors of great credit acknowledge it to be collected out of the scriptures; Illa verba, saith Augustin, quæ audivistis (speaking of this Creed) per scripturas sparsa sunt, et inde collecta, et ad unum redacta. And another ancient Paschasius writer; De sacris omnino voluminibus quæ sunt credenda sumamus; de quorum fonte symboli ipsius series derivata consistit. Its authority therefore will at the second hand prove apostolical, its matter being drawn from the fountains of apostolical scripture. But so much shall suffice, for preface, concerning the title and other extrinsecal adjuncts of the Creed. As for the subject itself, it is a short system of Christian doctrine; comprising the chief principles of Christianity, as distinct from all other religions, in a form (or manner of speech) suited for every singular person, thereby to declare his consent to that religion; which to do, as it is especially befitting at baptism, (when the person is solemnly admitted to the participation of the benefits and privileges of that religion; and should therefore reason

de Sp. S. cap. 1.

ably be required to profess that he believes the truth thereof, and willingly undertakes to perform the conditions and duties belonging thereto,) so it cannot but be very convenient and useful at other times, and deserves to be a constant part of God's service; as both much tending to the honour of God, and conducing to private and public edification: we thereby glorify God, frequently confessing his truth, (the chief and highest points of his heavenly truth, by his goodness revealed unto us ;) we remind ourselves of our duties and engagements to God; we satisfy the church of our perseverance, and encourage our brethren to persist in the faith of Christ.

As for the interpretation thereof, I shall not otherwise determine or limit its sense, than by endeavouring to declare what is true in itself, and agreeable to the meaning of the words, wherein each article is expressed; proving such truth by any kind of suitable arguments that offer themselves; such as either the reason of the thing, or plain testimony of holy scripture, or general consent and tradition of the ancient churches, founded by the apostles, do afford. Proving, I say; for the Creed itself, (as we before discoursed,) not being endued with highest authority to enforce its doctrine, it must be confirmed by such other grounds as may be proved more immediately valid, and efficacious to convince or produce faith in men's minds. For faith itself is not an arbitrary act, nor an effect of blind necessity; (we cannot believe what we please, nor can be compelled to believe any thing;) it is a result of judgment and choice, grounded upon reason of some kind, after deliberation and debate concerning the matter. But more distinctly what the faith we profess to have, is, I will



from Au

gustin, the

father of



immediately inquire; addressing myself to the exposition of the first word, I believe, or I believe in. Before we proceed, we must remove a rub, which criticising upon the phrase hath put in our way. It comes They give us a distinction between, to believe a thing, to believe a person, and to believe upon a thing or scholastic person: for example, taking God for the object, there is, they say, a difference between credere Deum, credere Deo, and credere in Deum. Credere Deum doth import simply to believe God to be; credere Deo, is to believe God's word or promise, (to esteem him veracious ;) credere in Deum, is to have a confidence in God, as able and willing to do us good, (to rely upon his mercy and favour; to hope for help, comfort, or reward from him: the which, after St. Augustin, the schoolmen account an act of charity or love toward God, as may be seen in that late excellent exposition of the Creed;) and in this last sense would some understand the faith here professed, because of the phrase, I believe in: but I briefly answer, that this phrase being derived immediately from the Greek of the New Testament, and the Greek therein imitating the Old Testament Hebrew, we must interpret the meaning thereof according to its use there, as that may best agree with the reason of the thing, and the design of the Creed here. Now in the said Greek and Hebrew, wiσtevei εἰς, (or πιστεύειν ἐν, or πιστεύειν ἐπὶ, which import the same,) and x7, (heemin be,) are used to signify all kinds of faith, and are promiscuously applied to

a Exod. xiv. all kind of objects: it is required, to believe not only

31. xix. 9.

2 Chron. in God and Christ, but in men also; in Moses, in

XX. 20.

Ps. lxxviii. the Prophets; as likewise in the works of God; in

32. God's commandments; in the gospel. Whence in ge

Ps.cxix. 66.

Mark i. 15.

neral it appears, that to believe in, hath not necessarily or constantly such a determinate sense, as the forementioned distinguishers pretend, but is capable of various meanings, as the different matters to which it is applied do require to believe in Moses, (for example,) was not to confide in his power or goodness, but to believe him God's prophet, and that his words were true; to believe in God's works, was to believe they came from God's power, and signified his providence over them; to believe in the commands of God, and the gospel of Christ, was to take them for rules of life, and to expect due reward according to the promises or threatenings in them respectively pronounced to obedience or disobedience: in a word, we may observe, (and there be instances innumerable to confirm the observation,) that, in the New Testament, πιστεύειν εἰς Χριστὸν, εἰς Κύριον, εἰς ὄνομα Κυρίου, and πιστεύειν τῷ Χριστῷ, τῷ Κυρίῳ, τῷ ὀνόματι Κυρίου, do indifferently bear the same sense, both signifying no more, than being persuaded that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God, such as he declared himself, and the apostles preached him to be. Since therefore the phrase in itself may admit various senses, we may (with most reason and probability) take it here, according to the nature and design of the Creed; which is to be a short comprehension of such verities, which we profess our assent unto: it hath, I say, been always taken (not directly for an exercise of our charity, or patience, or hope in God, or any other kind of devotion, but simply) for a confession of Christian principles and verities; and accordingly when I say, I believe in God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth; it is most proper so to understand my meaning, as if I had said, I believe

Hieron. contra Lu


there is one God; that he is Almighty; that he is Maker of heaven and earth: and so of the rest: to confirm which interpretation, I shall only add, that anciently σTEÚεw eis was commonly applied to the church, to the resurrection, to repentance, and remission of sins many examples might be produced to that purpose: I shall only mention those words of Jerome; Solenne est in lavacro post Trinitatis confessionem interrogare, Credis in sanctam ecclesiam? Which expression, according to the schoolmen's interpretation of believing in, were not allowable.

So much for the general notion of belief; it is some kind of assent to the truths propounded in the Creed: but what kind particularly it is, that we may more clearly judge, we shall observe, that belief hath two acceptions most considerable; one, more general and popular; the other, more restrained and artificial in its greatest latitude, and according to most common use, (as also according to its origination, from TéеOTα, by which it should import the effect of persuasion,) thus, I say, it signifies generally, being well persuaded, or yielding a strong assent unto the truth of any proposition; ἡ σφοδρὰ ὑπόληψις, Top. iv. 5. (so we have it defined, agreeably to common use, in Aristotle's Topics;) that is, a vehement or strong opinion about a thing: and so it involves no formal respect to any particular kind of means or arguments productive of it; but may be begot by any means whatever. So we are said to believe what our sense Taga-represents, what good reason infers, what credible

"X a. authority confirms unto us. σχὼν πᾶσιν.

Whence in rhetoric all sorts of probation (from what topic soever of reason deduced, upon whatever attestation grounded) are

So Acts xvii. 31.

« PoprzedniaDalej »