Obrazy na stronie

pag. 16. 2.

pulation made between a person by baptism initiated and received into Christianity, and God Almighty, (or the church in his behalf,) may most appositely be called a covenant or contract, none, I suppose, will doubt; wherein we confess faith, and promise obedience; God vouchsafes present mercy, promises grace and future reward: and that the word cúμBoho should hence import thus much, we cannot much wonder, if we have observed how commonly words are wont to borrow signification from their kindred and neighbours: and thus Chrysologus plainly interprets the meaning of the word; Pla-Serm. 62. citum, vel pactum, saith he, quod lucri spes venientis continet vel futuri, symbolum nuncupari etiam contractu docemur humano; quod tamen symbolum inter duos firmat semper geminata conscriptio-inter Deum vero et homines symbolum fidei sola fide firmatur; and commonly (in his sermons upon this Creed) he styles it pactum fidei. Ruffinus indeed tells us, (and divers after him,) that the reason why this Creed was called symbolum, or indicium, is, because it was devised as a mark to distinguish the genuine teachers of the Christian doctrine from such false teachers as did adulterate or corrupt it; or because it was a kind of military *token, (a badge, as it were, or a watch-word,) by * Cogniwhich the true friends of Christianity might be discriminated and discerned from the enemies thereof; Symbolum tessera est et signaculum, quo inter fi- Maximus deles perfidosque secernitur. But if we consider sis. the brevity and simplicity of the ancient forms, unsuitable to such a design, it may seem more probable, that it was intended, not so much to separate Christians from each other, as to distinguish them from



all of other religions; or more simply, as we said, to be a mark, whereby the person converted to Christianity did signify, that he did sincerely embrace it, consenting to the capital doctrines thereof, and engaging obedience to its laws. Indeed afterward (when it was commonly observed, that almost any kind of heretics, without evident repugnance to their particular opinions, could conform to those short and general forms, to exclude, or prevent compliance with them) occasion was taken to enlarge the ancient forms, or to frame new ones, (more full and explicit,) to be used, as formerly, at baptism. But (to leave further consideration of the name, and to pursue what more concerns the thing) for the more ancient forms, wherein the forementioned profession was conceived, it seems that in several places and times they did somewhat vary, receiving alteration and increase, according to the discretion of those who did preside in each church; the principal however and more substantial parts (which had especial direction and authority from the words and practice of our Saviour and his apostles) being every where and at all times retained; (those, namely, which concerned the Persons of the holy Trinity, and the great promises of the gospel; remission of sins, to be ministered here by the church; and eternal life, to be conferred hereafter by God upon those who had constantly believed and obeyed the gospel.) That in the more ancient times there was no one form, generally fixed and agreed upon, (to omit other arguments that persuade it,) is hence pro

a His additur indivisibilem et impassibilem : sciendum quod duo illi sermones in ecclesiæ Romanæ symbolo non habentur, constat autem apud nos additos hæreseos causa Sabellii, &c. Ruff. in Sym.

bable, for that the most learned and generally knowing persons of those times, when in their apologies against disbelievers for Christianity, or in their assertions of its genuine principles and doctrines against misbelievers, they by the nature and sequel of their discourse are engaged to sum up the principal doctrines of our religion, they do not yet (as reason did require, and they could hardly have avoided doing, had there been any such constantly and universally settled or avowed form) allege any such; but rather from their own observation of the common sense agreed upon, and in their own expression, set down those main doctrines, wherein the chief churches did consent; as may be seen by divers of them, especially by Tertullian, (the oldest of the De vel. Virg. PræLatins,) if we compare several places, wherein he script. adv. delivers the rule of faith, (as he constantly calls it, that is, such a summary of Christian principles, by eam. which the truth of doctrines concerning matters therein touched might be examined ;) wherein, I say, he delivers such rules of faith, to the same purpose in sense, but in language somewhat different, yet never referring us to any standing and more authentic form. Among these forms, that which now passes under the title of the Apostles' Creed (about which we discourse) seems to have been peculiar to the Roman church, and that very anciently, (as to the chief articles thereof; for it appears that in process of time it hath been somewhat altered, especially by addition ;) and because it had been used from such antiquity, that its original composition and use were not known, was presumed to have derived from the apostles, the first planters of that church, (as it was then usual to repute all imme

hæret. contra Prax

morial customs to be deduced from apostolical tradition;) or possibly because the Roman church (as in common belief founded by the two great apostles Peter and Paul,) was by way of excellency called the apostolical church; and the succession of Roman bishops, sedes apostolica: so whatever belonged to that church obtained the same denomination; and among the rest, the Roman symbol might for that reason be called symbolum apostolicum; that is, symbolum ecclesiæ apostolicæ. For that it was compiled by joint advice, or by particular contributions of all the apostles, is a conceit sustained by very weak grounds, and assailed by very strong objections: as, that a matter of so illustrious remarkableness, and of so great concernment, should be nowhere mentioned in the apostolic acts, nor by any authentic record attested; (and indeed had it been so testified, it must have attained canonical authority;) that it was not received by all churches; and that those which used the substance thereof, were so bold therewith as to alter and enlarge it, are considerations ordinarily objected thereto : but that which most effectually, to my seeming, doth render such original thereof altogether uncertain, (and doth amount almost to a demonstration against it; I mean against the truth, or, which is all one in matters of this nature, its certainty of being composed by the apostles,) is that which I before intimated; viz. that the most ancient (and those the most inquisitive and best seen in such matters) were either wholly ignorant that such a form, pretending the apostles for its authors, was extant, or did not accord to its pretence, or did not at all rely upon the authenticalness thereof; otherwise (as I before urged) it is

hardly possible that they should not have in most direct and express manner alleged it, and used its authority against those wild heretics who impugned some points thereof. Nothing can be more evident, than such an argument (as it was more obvious than not to be taken notice of, so it) must needs carry a great strength and efficacy with it; and would have much more served their purpose, for convincing their adversaries, than a rule (of the same sense and import) collected from their own observation, and composed in their own expression; and that argument, which they so much insist upon, drawn from the common consent of the apostolic churches, could not have been more strongly enforced, (nor the ground thereof more clearly evidenced,) than by propounding the attestation of this form, if such an one there had been commonly received and acknowledged: and if they were ignorant or uncertain thereof, after-times could not be more skilful or sure in the point. I speak not this with intent to derogate from the reputation of this Creed, or to invalidate that authority, whereof it hath so long time stood possessed: for, as for the parts thereof, which were undoubtedly most ancient, the matter of them is so manifestly contained in the scripture, and, supposing the truth of Christianity itself, they are so certain, that they need no other authority to support them, than what Christianity itself subsists upon; and for other points afterwards added, they cannot, by virtue of being inserted there, pretend to apostolic authority, but for their establishment must insist upon some other base. It is, in general, sufficient (that which we acknowledge) to beget a competent reverence thereto, that it was of so ancient use in the principal,

« PoprzedniaDalej »