« AnteriorContinuar »
especially if any thing hit upon by him, may be of use to advance and improve this design.
If the authar hath not explained every thing alledged by him to that degree of clearness and certainty, as may be expected by an inquie sitive reader, or hath in any point been mista. ken, it is excusable in him, not only on account of the general uncertainty of ancient and distant inatters, but also on account of the affected and studied obscurity of the primitive writers in relation to this particular; so that it is not the author's fault, if at any time his proofs are not so copious or direct, as might be wished for and desired: If he had found any thing in the primitive writers to have made any such point clearer and stronger, he would not haye omitted it.
If the explication given by the author, of any article or part of the creed, should happen to be disliked or not approved by any one, the reader nust remember, that the author only acts the part of an historian; his design being only to collect and discover the sense and meaning of the first makers and compos, ers of the creed, what it was that the introducers of the several articles purposed and intended thereby; and, if in any place he seems to speak his own sense, that is only for the better carrying on the thread of his discourse, and in the quality and person of an historian, as having collected the sense or explication in such place mentioned, to be the intended meaning of the framers of that part or clause of the creed; the only intent of the author being to shew the sense and intended meaning of the composers of the creed, and not at all to enter into an examination of the justness or truth of such sense and meaning; the au. thor leaving that to every man's private judgnient, to be tried and determined by the holy scriptures, the only perfect and infaltible rule of faith ; by which even this creed itself, and every explication thereof, must be tried and judged, and is no farther to be received or believed, than as it is consonant and agreeable thereunto; which is according to the sixth article of the church of England," that whatsoever is not read in the 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, or he thought requisite or necessary to salvation."
The introduction; containing several things .:relating to the creed in general ; the enco. miums given thereto by the primitive writer's; the several names by which it hath been called ; principally termed a symbol ; two reasons commonly alledged for that appellation; the one taken from the manner of common suppers amongst the ancients, which is shewn to be weak and uncertain ; the other taken from military affairs, where it des notes the walch-words and signs by which soldiers knew each other, which is affirmed not to be the full and proper signification of the word, but that it is rather to be derived from the marks and tokens used by the idol. alrous Pagans in their sacred rites, called by
them symbola, which were twofold, either mute or vocal : instances of both : proved to have been secret marks or words, revealed only to those who were initiated in their mysteries, by means of which they were known to each other, and had free admission wheresoever they came, to the services of those des ities whose symbols they had received ; and that from the same reasons, and in allusion thereunto, the creed was called a symbol by the primitive authors. A transition froni the titles to the authors of the creed : some ascribe it to the apostles; which by several reasons is denionstrated to be impossible : that nevertheless it is apostolical and ancient : exceeding difficult to find out the precise frau mers of it: the authors thereof were many; and the composure itself a work of time : one part of the creed was used by the apostles; and left by them to their successors : the creed was always demanded at baptism both by the apostles and by those who came after them : the other part of the creed was after: wards added by the rulers of the church, in opposition to heresies, as they appeared and sprang up: in what sense the apostles are said to be the authors of one part, and the succeeding governors of the church authors of the other: the meaning of the creed to be fetched from the writing of the fathers : the
ereed first constantly read in the eastern church about five hundred years after christ; and in the western near six hundred: the creed then read was the Nicene ; into whose room afterwards came the apostles; which is repeated.
THE great respect and veneration that hatlı
in all ages been paid to the apostles creed, as it is usually called, may, in some measure, apologize for the writing this essay, or any other discourse about it. It would be not only tedious, but also infinite, to transcribe the encomiums that every where abound in the ancient writings of this short synopsis and compendium of the Christian faith. Saint Augustin calls it, “ The illumination of the soul ; the perfection of believers, by which the bond of infidelity is dissolved, the gate of life is opened, and the glory of faith is shewn; little indeed in words, but great in mysteries; short so as not to oppress the memory, yet comprehensive so as to exceed the under. standing : Worthily, therefore, is this creed to be attended unto, since whatsoever is prefig. ured in the patriarchs, declared in the scriptures, or foretold in the prophets, concerning the blessed trinity, and the mystery of our Saviour's incarnation, death and crucifiction, is contained in it." Not much unlike to which