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any of the Apostles, as their composition, unless by a tradition of the most vague and questionable character,) it can be traced up to a period so very near to the age of the Apostles, and is known to have borne, even then, so decided a stamp of authority, that it may well be considered as containing a summary of those doctrines, which the Apostles themselves had taught and approved. But, as it will be necessary, not only to enter into each particular Article of this Creed, but to inquire into the nature and design of Creeds in general, it will be most expedient, that an investigation of such extent and importance should be the subject of a separate discourse.

91

LECTURE VI.

THE CREEDS.

HEBREWS X1. 6.

He, that cometh to God, must believe that He is.

To “come to God,” in the language of Scripture, is--to listen to his call; to embrace thankfully whatever He is pleased to reveal, and to act, as that revelation dictates, in obedience to his laws:-a disposition and conduct, which presupposes the firmest belief, not only in his existence, but in his Attributes. The import, therefore, of this text, is much the same, as is meant to be conveyed, when it is said, that a right faith is the necessary foundation of practical piety and virtue. It is the conviction of this truth that has led all Christian Churches to the introduction of CREEDS; that is to say-of forms or confessions of faith, whereby not only every member of the community might be taught and reminded, what, as a disciple of Christ, he is required to believe; but a uniformity of faith, on points essential to salvation, might the more easily be maintained.

Since then the objects of Creeds are so highly important, it is the more necessary to become well acquainted with the extent and grounds of their authority. Now, the Scriptures being of far higher and more certain authority than any Creed; inasmuch as the latter are only methodical compendiums or abstracts of doctrines, more diffusely or less directly delivered in the Scriptures, and professedly collected from thence ; it must follow of course, that the language of Creeds is not to be set up as a rule for interpreting the Scriptures; but, on the contrary, it must be our business, on every occasion of doubt or difficulty, to have recourse to the Scriptures in explanation of our Creeds. This, therefore, is the principle, which, in this brief discussion, I design to adopt, and to which it will be my endeavour strictly to adhere, Herein, to say the truth, I am but following the example and maintaining the authority of our Church; who, in the sixth of her thirtynine Articles, declares, that “ whatever is not read in holy Scripture, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith :" and again, in her eighth Article, assigns, as a reason for acquiring our assent to the Creeds there mentioned, that they " can be proved by most certain warranty of holy Scripture.”

It is indeed sufficiently evident, that, when men of unquestionable talents, learning, and integrity, have devoted their best efforts to produce a clear and sound exposition of those parts of the sacred writings, on which the faith of a Christian must be founded; great deference is due to the result of their labours; especially, when it has been sanctioned and adopted by the Church to which we belong. No considerate person will deny, that such aid and guidance is not only highly useful, and even necessary, to the young and ignorant, but conducive to the maintenance of peace and concord in the whole Christian community.

Still, however, no principle of respect, either for their intentions or for their learning, forbids us to bear in mind, that both the compilers and adopters of Creeds, after all, were fallible men. To the Scriptures they candidly appeal: with the Scriptures, then, must their representations be compared ; and by them must they be interpreted. It is only where the Scriptures themselves must be allowed to be obscure, and their precise meaning involved in some degree of uncertainty, that the concurring judgment of men, so qualified, should have a preponderating weight: and, in such cases, the systems, which they have drawn up, may safely be admitted as a standard, by which others, less competent to decide for themselves, may regulate their belief. It is well known, that a declaration of assent to some Creed, or confession of faith, was required of converts, previously to their baptism, by the Apostles themselves: but, what were the terms of those confessions, or whether they were uniformly in the same terms, we have no means to ascertain. It is satisfactory, however, to find, that all the Creeds, now extant, composed during the two first centuries, (though some of them are confined to particular Articles of faith, yet) so far as they go, agree exactly, in substance,

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