« PoprzedniaDalej »
the Athanasian Creed, are, to my thinking, not at all more substantial than Squire Martingal's against the Prayer Book and Bible. Indeed, Sir, it is my opinion, that there is nothing in that Creed either unscriptural or uncharitable, but quite the very contrary; that it is essentially, (as I once heard you call the Commination Service,) in its matter, Christian Truth ; and in its manner, Christian Love.' And, Sir, if you will not be weary of me, I will try to show you how I came to this conclusion.”
Richard," said I,“ you need not fear that you will tire me.” “Well, Sir," he proceeded; "it seemed to me plain from the Scriptures, (what no one indeed will deny or question) that the Great Almighty God should be the object of all our Love and Adoration. From the same Scriptures it also appeared, that the Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour and Hope, is entitled to all our Love and Adoration.
“ And again, from the same Scriptures, it appears that the Holy Spirit of God the only Sanctifier, Guide, and Guardian of His Church, is entitled to all our Love and Adoration."
"Certainly," I replied; "no one, who believes the Scriptures, can doubt this."
“ And is not this,” he said, " the very doctrine of the first part of the Creed ; " that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God?" In like manner, if any man inquire for the very foundation of Christian hope and consolation, surely it is the doctrine that God our Saviour took on him our frail and mortal nature ; that Ile was 'perfect man,' as well as 'perfect God.' Without this doctrine, the peculiar hopes and consolations of the Gospel fade away and disappear. Now this is the great truth pressed on our thoughts in the second part of the Athanasian Creed, where we are taught boldy to maintain that the right faith is, that we BELIEVE AND CONFEss—not believe only, but believe and confess,—that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.''
"Yes," I answered, “it is difficult to imagine how any one who acknowledges the truth of the Scriptures, can deny and question this. But you must, I am sure, be aware, that many people object, that this doctrine is not simply stated, and so left to every one's own conscience to approve, but that attempts are made to draw out distinctions and explanations, which are not in the Scripture, and which no one can understand ; and then, after all, people are made to say, that whoever does not believe all this, has no chance of salvation."
Sir,” he replied, “ there is a verse in the Psalms, which seems to give an answer to such objectors ; 'if I should say like them, I should condemn the generation of God's children.' No one will dare deny that those who framed this Creed, and those who put it into our Prayer Book, were good and holy men, sincerely anxious for the honour of Almighty God, and for the salvation of men's souls. It was surely, not their fault that these distinctions and explanations, (if they are to be so called,) became necessary, but the fault of rash or loose-minded people, who attempted to corrupt the hearts of the simple with their false distinctions and false explanations.
" Against such, the Church, as a good parent should, warns her sons in the strongest terms; and if stronger terms could have been found, no doubt she would have used them.
“ And it seems to me, that it is not at all the intention of the Church, in this Creed or any where else, to endeavour to explain what is above human comprehension ; but only to warn us that quibbled and pretended distinctions have been made of old, and will be again against the essential doctrines of the Gospel; and that, come in whatever shape they may, they are to be opposed at once with a sharp and strong denial ; to be at once, and as the Article says, 'thoroughly' rejected.
“And the absolute need of some such strong impenetrable fence appears from what I have heard, that there have been Church people, and even Clergymen, who denied these doctrines, and, (as might be expected,) scorned this Creed. How they could reconcile their conduct to their consciences, it is not for me to say ; but it is plain, that if the fence were taken away and weakened, the danger to the fold would be much increased."
“I fully agree with you," was my reply ; “hut you know those who dislike this Creed assert, that the · Fence,' as you call it, is much sharper and stronger than it need be; and that it would be better to have no · Monitory Clauses' at all, than
any expressed in such strong, and, as they call them, violent terms."
Sir," he answered, "you know that in different places of the New Testament, we are taught that adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and other such crimes, are entirely unsuitable to the Christian Profession, and that persons who are guilty of them do in practice renounce the Gospel.
“Now supposing it should be thought well by the Governors of the Church to set forth a solemn warning to profligates thus worded :
" Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he avoid the crimes of adultery, whoredom, drunkenness, and blasphemy; which crimes, unless every one do carefully abstain from, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.'
“ And if then were to follow some solemn admonitions, setting forth, (according to the sense, though not in the very words of Scripture,) the necessity of self-denial, mortification, and constant communion with Almighty God in prayer and at His holy table, so that the affections may be kept set on high and heavenly things; and all concluding thus :
««• This is the rule of Christian Purity, which except a man observe faithfully he cannot be saved ;'
“Do not you, Sir, think such warnings would be quite agreeable to Scripture and to Christian charity ?"
“ Indeed I think so," I replied.
“And yet,” he proceeded, “supposing such an admonition as this were to be made by authority, and ordered to be printed in all the Prayer Books, and to be read twelve times a year in every Church in England, do you not think there would be a great outcry against it; and that many people, when it was going to be read, would shut their books, or perhaps go out of the Church ?"
“ It is too probable," I replied, " considering how little account is now made of crimes of this kind, even by many who are thought religious people. Indeed, I have understood from a person
I can rely upon, otherwise I could not have credited it, that one of the objections which Mr. Cartwright himself brought against the Prayer Book, was, that in the Litany, fornication is termed ' a deadly sin.'”
“ It is strange, indeed, Sir," said he, “and sad to think that any one who believes the Scriptures could offer such an objection.
But it confirms an opinion I was going to express to you. For if a good kind of man, as Mr. Cartwright is said to be, objects to the Litany on such grounds, how much more is it to be expected that such an admonition as that which I have spoken of, would be frequently scorned and hooted at.
" And then," continued he, “supposing such an admonition as this had been made and used in the Church for hundreds of years, and it were now to be left out in the reformed Prayer Book, would not such a measure give great satisfaction and encouragement to all the loose dissolute people throughout the country ?”
“ That cannot be doubted," I answered. “ But there is one objection, (absurd enough to be sure, which people offer against the Athanasian Creed, which you have not noticed, perhaps because you had never heard of it.
“ The objection I mean is, that this Creed leaves no allowance for unavoidable ignorance, or bad education ; nor any chance even for persons of weak doubting minds, no, not for idiots, or children, to escape from its heavy censures.
“ It is, obviously, an absurd objection, yet it is what people do urge, and people too who make pretension to reason and religion.”
“Sir,” said he, “ I can never suppose that any really conscientious person, whose mind was free from prejudice, could offer such an objection.
“ It must be quite plain to all candid minds, that as in the Scripture itself, so in the Church Prayer Book, we are always instructed to believe that our merciful God makes allowance for our weakness and blindness in matters of knowledge and faith, as well as in other things. As in the Scriptures, so in the Church Prayer Book, we are always taught, that occasional doubt and perplexity are no proof of want of Faith ; that he truly believes who acts (if I may so say,) upon Trust, who, like Abraham, the father of the faithful, ' obeys, and goes on' obeying, 'not knowing whither he goes ;' knowing only, that if he follow God's guidance, he must be right.
“ It is too always taught, as in the Scriptures, so in the Prayer Book, that upon true repentance, sincere faith in the blood and Mediation of the One Redeemer, and entire submission to the Guidance of the One Sanctifier, it is, I say, always taught, that the
door of mercy is open even to the most inveterate sinners, whatever the nature of their sins might have been ; unless indeed the sin against the Holy Ghost be considered an exception; to guard Christians against which, may be supposed one great and surely charitable purpose of this Creed.
“ How then," he proceeded, “can the Church with any show of reason be called ' uncharitable,' which with this evangelical doctrine implied in all her Services, uses occasionally the strongest language of warning (or even of threatening,) against fatal sins and errors, if by any means she may preserve the souls committed to her charge stedfast in the faith, - the faith which was once delivered unto the saints ?'”
“ Yes," said I, once for all, never to be changed or frittered away in base compliance with the ever-varying customs and fancies of worldly and self-conceited men."
“ And, Sir,” he proceeded, “I put it to myself in this way. What a fearful thing it would be for a person on his death-bed to deny the Son of God, the only Redeemer, and the Spirit of God, the only Comforter ? Now the Church Prayer Book considers us all as it were on our death-beds, or at least but a little
from them. The Services for the Visitation of the Sick, and the Burial of the Dead, come very close after Baptism and the Catechism. As we should wish to die, so the Church would have us live. If it be an awful thought to pass into Eternity in wilful ignorance or negligence of the essential truths of the Gospel, is it not also an awful thought that people should spend this their probationary time in such ignorance or negligence? And again, I would ask, can the Church be called, ' uncharitable,' which earnestly and incessantly, and in the plainest, strongest words that the English language can supply, warns her members of their danger in this respect ?”
Certainly, Richard," I replied, " what you say is most worthy to be thought on by all persons who find fault with this Creed. But I wish you to recollect, that many of them take what they call high ground' in their argument. They confidently assert that it is, ' bigoted,'' unscriptural,'' unchristian,' and other such hard names, to pretend that modes of faith,' (that is their term,) are of any great importance, or indeed of any importance at all ;