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are to be found in holy Scriptures: or if it does now, it did not always; for it was once much shorter. And creeds never were intended as perfect catalogues of fundamentals, but were compiled with other views and for other purposesh. I may add further, that were the Roman Creed ever so complete a catalogue of fundamentals, when rightly understood, yet since that creed is verbally admitted by all parties and denominations of Christians, and by some that err fundamentally even in point of simple belief, (as by Arians, Socinians, Sabellians, &c. who warp the general expressions of the Creed, as they do Scripture texts also, to their respective persuasions,) the Creed so misinterpreted and misapplied will be of very little service to us, for the distinguishing fundamental articles from non-fundamental. Those learned Divines, who have spoken the most highly of its perfection and use, have always supposed that it ought however to be rightly understood, according to the true meaning and intent of the compilers that drew it up, and of the churches which made use of it: otherwise the design of it is in a great measure lost or frustratedi.
From what hath been observed, we may certainly conclude that the rule which refers us to the Apostles' Creed is a wrong rule, as it is faulty in defect, shortening the number of fundamentals more than is meet : at the same time it appears also, in some other respects, to be peccant in excess, taking in
some articles which seem not to merit a place among fundamentals. Such for instance are the articles of Christ's suffering under
& Ad quæstionem propositam re- adoratione et cultu, et praxi novæ vitæ, spondemus, non omnes articulos ne- quæ exerceri rite non possunt, nisi et cessarios, si id solum quod expressum cognoscantur, et necessaria esse creest consideres, symbolo contineri. Nic dantur. Witsius in Symb. Apostol. hil enim hic est de verbo Dei quod p. 17 fidei nostræ proximum objectum, h See my Sermons, vol. ii. p. 188. norma, et fons est; quodque præterea Crit. Hist. of the Athanas. Creed, fundamentum Apostolorum et Pro- vol. iii. p. 252. Remarks on Clarke's phetarum dicitur, Ephes. ii. 20. Nihil Catechism, vol.iv. p. 39. Importance, de peccato et miseria nostra, cujus vol. iii. p. 536. cognitio tamen ut unice necessaria i Si qui ex nostris dixerint omnes inculcatur, Jerem. iii. 13. Nihil de fundamentales articulos in symbolo justificatione per fidem, sine operibus contineri, id non eo dixerunt sensu, legis, cujus tamen notitiam tanti fa- quasi verborum symboli recitationem ciebat Apostolus, ut præ ea, reliqua mox pro sufficienti Christianismi sigomnia ut damnum et stercora repu
no haberent: nam fides nostra non taret, (Phil. iii. 8, 9.) et Christi ex- in verbis, sed in sensu sita est, non sortes esse, et a gratia excidisse de- in superficie sed in medulla, non in claret, quicunque per legem justificari sermonum foliis, sed in radice ratiovolunt. Gal. v. 4. Nihil etiam de Dei nis. Witsius ubi supra, p. 17.
Pontius Pilate, and of his descent into hell, whatever it means : for though they are Scriptural truths, theological verities, or articles of religion, yet that they are properly articles of faith, of the essential and fundamental kind, (more than several other Scripture truths left out of the creeds,) does not appeark; neither does their perspicuity, or intrinsic dignity, or use, give them a clear preference above many less noted articles of religion which might be named 1.
VI. Some have been of opinion, that the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the two first verses, gives us a complete list of fundamentals, under four or five articles, viz. repentance, faith in God, baptism with confirmation, resurrection, and judgment m. But this opinion appears to be founded only in the equivocal sense of the name fundamental, and the want of distinguishing between the elementaries and the essentials of Christianity. The Apostle is there speaking of milk as opposed to strong meat, of doctrines proper to babes in Christ, as opposed to doctrines fit for grown men: he is not speaking of points essential to the Christian system, as opposed to points not essential. The first elements of Christianity are not the same with fundamentals, in the sense we here take the word, as signifying essentials : therefore that passage out of the Hebrews is wide of our present purpose, and mostly foreign to the business in hand. It may indeed be allowed, that the elementary doctrines there specified are so many essentials likewise : but there are other essentials
k Vid. Turretin. de Fundam. p. 14. laying on of hands; and, lastly,
1 See more upon this argument in “ that we live as becomes such perVoetius, de Artic, et Error. fundam. sons as are in continual expectation sect. 5. Hoornbeeck. Socin. Confut. “ of a resurrection from the dead, and tom. i. lib. 1. cap. 9. p. 256. tom. ii. “ of eternal judgment : these, I say, Prolegom. p. 65.
are plainly the only fundamentals * The doctrine of fundamentals “ of Christianity: about these there (about which learned and conten- can be no controversy ; in these “ tions men have raised great dis- “ there can be no ignorance, no not “putes) is really from this passage of among persons of the meanest ca“ the Apostle exceedingly clear and pacity. And besides these, what“ manifest. For the only fundamental ever other doctrines are occasionally “ doctrines of Christianity (viz. those taught, or eagerly disputed about, “ covenanted about at Baptism) are they cannot be of the foundation of “ plainly these: that we have faith “ religion, but men may differ con“ towards God, that we repent from cerning them with peace and charity, « dead works; that we have the ac- “ and yet every one hold fast the root
ceptableness of this repentance as- “ of their confidence, the assurance of “ sured to us through Christ in the “ their salvation in these undisputed “ ministration of the Word and Sa- “ doctrines of faith and obedience." “ craments, styled here by the Apostle Clarke's Posthum. Sermons, vol. ix. “ the doctrine of Baptisms and of serm. iv. p. 90.
besides those; neither was it the Apostle's design to number them up in that place. In that short summary of elementary principles, no express mention is made of the doctrine of Christ crucified, which the Apostle elsewhere lays a very particular stress upon”; no mention of justification by the merits and death of Christ, in opposition to justification by mere works, though an essential of the Gospel in St. Paul's accounto; no express mention of any thing more than what some heretics condemned by St. Paul as such P, and others in like manner condemned by St. John 9, might have owned, or probably did own. Therefore the Apostle's list of elementaries in that place is no list of fundamentals properly so called, no catalogue of essentials. And whereas it is suggested, that those were the only fundamental doctrines stipulated in Baptism, that cannot be true, since it is acknowledged that what concerns the dignity of the person of Christ is omitted in that catalogue': for who can imagine, that Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, does not carry in it a plain intimation of the dignity of the person of Christ, and a stipulation to pay him the like honour, worship, and service, as we pay to the Father; or that such doctrine and such worship are not essentials in the Christian system? And whereas it is further suggested, that those four or five articles there mentioned by the Apostle are such as admit of no controversy, and that in these there can be no ignorance, no not among persons of the meanest capacity ; it may pertinently be replied, that there was great controversy, even in the Apostles' days, about one of them, namely, about the doctrine of the resurrection, which some heretics of that time interpreted to a metaphorical sense, and in effect vacated and frustrated it: and it is notorious at this day, that some Christians, so called, do very ignorantly (for it were hard to say that they do it maliciously) reject water-baptism, and throw off the use or necessity of both Sacraments. So that it is in vain to offer any catalogue of fundamentals which may not or has not been controverted, in whole or in part, by some that call themselves Christians; or to think of settling the rule of fundamentals by considering what may be called the undisputed doctrines of faith and obedience. But this by the way only; we shall have more of that matter presently,
in its proper place. All I shall observe further here is, that if the articles in Hebr. sixth are to be understood in the inclusioe way, and with all that they may be supposed to comprehend, or contain, then indeed they may be said to include all the fundamentals, and more; for even the single article of faith towards God, in the reductive way, contains every thing: but if they are to be taken in the exclusive way, (as is plainly intended by those who refer to them as a rule for fixing fundamentals,) then it is certain, that they come vastly short of a complete catalogue. But I proceed.
VII. Some persons observing, that converts in the apostolical times were admitted to Baptism upon the confession of a single article, namely, that Jesus is the Messiah, with two or three concomitant articles, have concluded from thence, that such a general belief is sufficient to make a man a Christian, and therefore also to keep him so: from whence also it is further insinuated, that such a confession gives a man a claim to Christian communion, and that nothing beyond that ought to be absolutely insisted on as fundamental, or made a term of communion s. But this reasoning is faulty in many respects.
proves too much to prove any thing: for, by the same argument, there would be no absolute need of any belief or confession at all : Baptism alone (as in infants) is sufficient to make one a Christian, yea, and to keep him such, even to his life's end, since it imprints an indelible character in such a sense as never to need repeating. 2. Admitting that a very short creed might suffice for Baptism, it does not follow that the same may suffice all along to give a man a right to Christian fellowship; especially when he is found to hold such principles as tend to overthrow that very confession. The whole of Christianity may be virtually implied or included in that single article, of admitting Jesus to be the true Messiah ; and therefore the denying any important point of the Christian faith is in effect revoking or
s “The belief of Jesus of Nazareth “ to be the Messiah, together with “ these concomitant articles of his “ resurrection, rule, and coming again
“ this new law of faith God of his
good pleasure hath made to be so :
and this, it is plain by the preach“ing of our Saviour and his Apostles “ to all that believed not already in “him, was only the believing the only “ true God, and Jesus to be the Mes. “ siah whom he hath sent.” Locke, vol. ii. p. 581. Compare p. 615.
to judge the world, are all the faith
required as necessary to justifica“ tion.” Locke, vol. č. p. 538. Compare p. 540, 566, 578.
Nothing can be absolutely necessary to be believed, but what by
recanting that very article. 3. The forms of admission into any society, (though they commonly draw after them an obligation to submit to all the fundamental laws, rules, or maxims of such society,) are not properly the fundamentals themselves : and though a man may have a right to be received as a member upon his passing through such forms, it does not follow that he has a right to continue a member, and to participate of the privileges thereto belonging, while he refuses to submit to the essential rules or maxims of the society, or makes it his endeavour to subvert or destroy them. It is one thing to say what may be barely necessary at admission, and another to say what may be necessary afterwards. General professions may suffice at first, as a pledge and earnest of more particular acknowledgments to come after: and if those do not follow, it amounts to a kind of retracting even that general security. 4. It may be further observed, that neither Simon Magus, nor the ancient Judaizers whom St. Paul anathematized '; neither Alexander, nor Hymenæus, nor Philetus, (who denied the general resurrection and were delivered over to Satan for itu,) neither the Docetæ of the apostolical age, who denied Christ's humanity and were rejected by St. John> ; nor even the impious Nicolaitans whom our Lord himself proscribed as unfit for Christian communion : none of those (so far as appears) ever directly threw up their baptismal profession, or denied, in such a sense, that Jesus was the Messiah, or ceased to be Christians in the large import of the name, so as to want to be rebaptized : and yet certainly they had forfeited all right to Christian communion, and were justly rejected as deserters and aliens, for teaching doctrines subversive of the Christian religion. Therefore again, that short creed, or single article, however sufficient it might be to make a nominal Christian, or to keep him so, was yet never allowed sufficient to entitle a subverter of the faith to the right hand of fellowship, or to supersede an explicit acknowledgment of other Gospel doctrines, as fundamental verities. 5. Lastly, I observe, that to deny Jesus to be the Messiah, is in effect to renounce Christianity, and to revert to Judaism, or Paganism, or worse : and therefore the insisting upon that confession only without any thing more, as a term of communion, is as much as to say, that all but downright apostates are to be received as Christian brethren, so far as faith t See Importance &c. vol. iii. p. 401.
u Ibid. p. 402, 459. * Ibid. p. 402, 547.