Lecture 9. On the Essentials of the Gospel

{214} IT may have been observed, that in the last several Lectures, I have frequently spoken of greater truths and lesser truths, of the essential parts of the Gospel, of the saving faith, and the like. I have said that the Church was indefectible in the Faith, or in the fundamentals of Revealed Religion, and that in consequence she superseded Private Judgment so far, and enforced her authoritative declarations of Christian truth; in other words, that she imposed a certain faith as a condition of communion with her, inflicting anathemas on those who denied it. Yet, I have not as yet said what that Faith is, or how we ascertain it. Here, then, a very important subject is opened upon us, which I shall consider in this and the following Lecture; viz. what are the essential doctrines of the Gospel; on determining which will depend the terms of communion, the range of Private Judgment, and the character of the Church's indefectibility. What are those points, if there are such, which all branches of the Church hold, ever have held, and ever shall hold; and which every individual must profess, in order to be considered a member of the Church?


Roman Catholics have no difficulty in answering this question. Considering the Church to be infallible, and {215} the faith to depend on the Church, not the Church to be built on the faith, they maintain, as I have already said, that whatever the Church imposes, is fundamental and essential, be it greater or less, and that what it has once imposed, of course it cannot reverse. But we Anglo-Catholics certainly have a difficulty in the matter, as aiming at truth, as dealing with facts, with the history of 1800 years, and not framing a theory at our pleasure.

For instance, they ask us, how we determine what are the essential parts of the Gospel and what not? If we should answer, that we consider all is essential which Scripture expressly teaches, they ask in reply how we draw the line, and who is to draw it, amid the present variety of creeds, and considering the peculiar structure of the inspired Volume.

Again, if we attempt to decide antecedently what is essential and what is not, to judge, criticize, and analyze the Revelation, we fairly expose ourselves to the charge of exalting our own reason inconsistently with the very notion of faith, and with danger to its essential qualities in our minds and tempers.

Once more; if we appeal to Antiquity, which is the most advisable proceeding, then we have to determine whether all that Ancient Consent has taught is essential, and if so, how to ascertain it all; or, on the other hand, if we select a portion, we are bound to say why we select it, and pass over the rest. In consequence of these difficulties, many Protestants have taken refuge in the Latitudinarian notion that there are no essentials at all,—no orthodox faith, as it is called,—that all anathemas, all "damnatory clauses" are encroachments upon Christian liberty; and that the reception of the Bible, nay, even mere sincerity, is enough, so that we live morally and religiously. Now then let us turn to the consideration of this difficulty; in the course of which I shall have {216} the opportunity of pointing out some of the serious exceptions which lie against the Roman mode of solving it.


And, first, let it be clearly understood what is meant by the word "fundamentals" or "essentials." I do not mean by it what is "necessary to be believed for salvation by this particular person or that." No one but God can decide what compass of faith is required of given individuals. The necessary Creed varies, for what we know, with each individual to whom the Gospel is addressed; one is bound to know and believe more, or more accurately, another less. Even the minutest and most precise details of truth may have a claim upon the faith of a theologian; whereas the peasant or artisan may be accepted on a vague and rudimental faith,—which is like seeing a prospect at a distance,—such as a child has, who accepts the revealed doctrine in the letter, contemplating and embracing its meaning, not in its full force, but as far as his capacity goes. I do not then enter into the question how much is essential, and how accurately, in the case of a given individual. This is not, strictly speaking, a question of Theology; for Theology, as being a science, is ever concerned with doctrines, principles, abstract truths, not with their application.

Still, though the clearness or keenness of vision may vary in individuals, there may be some one object, some circle of sacred truths, which they one and all must see, whether faintly or distinctly, whether in its fulness or in outline, doctrines independent and external, which may be emphatically called the Gospel, which have been committed to the Church from the first, which she is bound to teach as saving, and to enforce as the terms of communion; doctrines accordingly, which are necessary in themselves for what may be called an abstract Christian, {217} putting aside the question of more or less, of clearness or confusion,—doctrines which he must receive in their breadth and substance, in order to be accounted a Christian, and to be admitted into the Church.

It is plain, indeed, from what has led to this discussion, that to examine the state of this or that given individual would be quite beside our purpose, which is to determine merely this,—what doctrines the Church Catholic will teach indefectibly, what doctrines she must enforce as a condition of communion, what doctrines she must rescue from the scrutiny of Private Judgment; in a word, what doctrines are the foundation of the Church. The controversialists of Rome challenge us to produce them, thinking we cannot, and implying thereby that we cannot on our principles maintain a visible Church at all; for it stands to reason that a Church cannot exist even in theory without some revealed faith as its principle of life, whether that be a supernatural doctrine, or a claim to supernatural power.


What, then, is the Church's deposit of faith, and how is it ascertained? Now I might answer, in the first place, that the event has determined it. If the Church Catholic is to be indefectible in faith, we have but to inquire what that common faith is, which she now holds everywhere as the original deposit, and we shall have ascertained what we seek. If we adopt this course, we shall find what is commonly called the Creed, to be that in which all branches of the Church agree; and, therefore, that the fundamental or essential doctrines are those which are contained in the Creed. This conclusion, thus inferred from the primÔ facie state of the case, is proved to be correct from the following historical considerations. {218}


It is known to all who are acquainted with Christian Antiquity, that at Baptism the candidate made a confession of his faith, before he was admissible to it. Here, then, we have one of our inquiries answered at once. Whatever that confession might contain, it was, by the force of the terms, the primitive condition of communion, or fundamental faith. Now this confession was what we now call the Creed. At first, indeed, that is, during the first years of the Apostles, while the Church itself was forming, the Creed was but partially developed too; nor, indeed, was there any imperative necessity, that any part of the system should be reduced to rule, while infallible guides were present. The baptismal confessions recorded in the Acts are of this nature:—"I believe that Jesus is the Son of God;"—"I believe in Jesus Christ," and the like. But this elementary confession, thus brief and incomplete as far as the express words went, seems even before the Apostles' death, to have been expanded and moulded into form, and in that form or type it has remained up to this day in the Baptismal Service. I say this was done in the Apostles' days; because history bears witness to the fact, calling it "the Creed," "the Apostles' Creed," the treasure and legacy of faith which the Apostles had left to their converts, and which was to be preserved in the Church to the end. Indeed, St. Paul himself, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, so speaks of it, when quoting part of it, viz., as that which had been committed to him, and which he had committed in turn to his converts [Note 1].

It was for this reason that the Creed was commonly called the Symbol or Badge, being a mark, such as a uniform or a watchword is in the case of soldiers, distinguishing Christians from infidels. {219}

In like manner it was called the Regula Fidei, or Rule of Faith, as the formulary, by which all statements of doctrine made in the Church, were to be measured and estimated.

Further, the early Church considered it to be unalterable; and here, again, in accordance with what is another Apostle's account of it, as "the faith once for all delivered unto the Saints." These two points, viz., that the essential doctrines of the Gospel, (those which must be professed as the condition of communion), were comprised in the Creed; next, that they were regarded as unalterable, can hardly be disputed; but it may be useful to adduce one or two authorities by way of illustration.


The terms in which the early Fathers speak of the Creed bear me out in this account of it. For instance; St. IrenŠus, who is but one step removed from St. John himself, says, "The Church, though propagated throughout the whole world, unto the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and their disciples the belief in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is therein; and in One Jesus Christ, the Son of God, incarnate for our salvation, and in the Holy Ghost, who proclaimed by the Prophets the divine Dispensations, and the advent, birth of a Virgin, passion, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven in our flesh, of His beloved Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His coming again from heaven in the glory of the Father, to gather together all things in one, and raise from the dead all flesh of human kind; that, to Christ Jesus our Lord and God, and Saviour and King, according to the good pleasure of the Invisible Father, every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess {220} to Him, and that He may exercise just judgment upon all, and send into everlasting fire wicked spirits, and transgressing and apostate angels, with all ungodly, unrighteous, lawless, and profane men; but upon the just and holy, who have kept His commandments and persevered in His love, whether serving Him from the first or turning by repentance, may bestow immortality by the free gift of life, and secure for them everlasting glory. This message, and this faith, which the Church has received, as I have said, though disseminated through the whole world, she diligently guards, as dwelling in one house; and believes as uniformly as though she had but one soul and one heart; and preaches, teaches, hands down to others, in such true unison, as though she had but one mouth. True it is, the world's languages are various, but the power of the Tradition is one and the same. There is no difference of Faith or Tradition, whether in the Churches of Germany, or in Spain, or in Gaul, or in the East, or in Egypt, or in Africa, or in the more central parts of the world; but as the sun, God's creature, is one and the same in all the world, so also the preaching of the Truth shines everywhere, and lighteth every one who desires to come to the knowledge of the Truth. Among the Rulers of the Church, neither he who is all powerful in word speaks other doctrine, (for no one can be above his Master), nor does the weak in word diminish the Tradition. For, whereas the Faith is one and the same, neither he who has much to say concerning it, hath anything over, nor he who speaketh little, any lack."


Tertullian, in like manner, who was contemporary with IrenŠus, gives his testimony in various places, that "the Rule of faith is altogether one, sole, unalterable, unchangeable, viz., that of believing in One God Almighty, Maker {221} of the world, and his Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead the third day, received into heaven, and now sitting at the right hand of the Father, and to come to judge quick and dead, by the resurrection of the flesh."

And so, again, in the Apostolical Constitutions, which is a collection of usages of the Eastern Church, compiled about the end of the fourth century, we read that "when the Catechumen has gone through his preparatory course, and is about to be baptized, let him be told how to renounce the devil, and how to dedicate himself to Christ ... Thus: 'I renounce Satan, and his works, and his pomps,' &c. &c. After this renunciation, let him enrol himself among Christ's disciples, saying, 'I devote myself to Christ, and believe and am baptized into one Ingenerate, the only true God Almighty, the Father of Christ, Creator and Maker of all things, of whom are all things; and into the Lord Jesus, the Christ, His Only-begotten Son, the First-born of every creature, &c. ... who came down from heaven and took flesh on Him, and was born of the Holy Virgin Mary, &c. ... and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, &c. &c. ... and I am baptized into the Holy Spirit, which is the Paraclete, which has wrought in all Saints from the beginning, and at length was sent by the Father to the Apostles also, &c. ... and after the Apostles to all who in the Holy Catholic Church believe in the resurrection of the flesh, ... and the life of the world to come.'" [Note 2]


These are some out of many passages, and those separate and independent, in which we have distinctly placed before {222} us, as the substance of the Catholic faith, what is now called the Creed; as taught in all places, and as required by every Christian on his admission into the Church. We find it digested in form, limited in its topics, circumscribed in its range, one and the same everywhere. We find, moreover, what I have as yet taken for granted, as being almost self-evident, but which the Romanist disputes, and which therefore it is necessary to prove, that the fundamentals of faith, or Creed of admission, were also the rule of teaching subsequently to admission. He on the contrary, would maintain that the Baptismal creed was but a portion of the sacred deposit specially committed to the Church's keeping [Note 3]. But with the passages already cited before us, which expressly call the Creed the rule of teaching, is it possible to conceive that that teaching then comprised anything that did not naturally rise out of it, or was an explanation of it? Even granting there were articles of faith which as yet lay, amid the general traditionary teaching, undefined and unrecognized in public formularies, such as the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, is it not plain that still they must have been implied and virtually contained in the Creed, if the Creed had any title to the name of a Symbol, or Rule, or Summary of Christian doctrine? Would the Fathers so have called it, had it not been the substance and centre, the measure and analysis of the whole counsel of God, so that nothing could be added really, because there was nothing to add but what bore and depended upon it? If there had been secret doctrines, essentially distinct from these articles, yet necessary parts of the Faith, such as the propriety of Image-worship, would the Fathers have ventured to say {223} that the Creed contained all they taught? or can any reason be assigned why Image-worship should have been kept secret, and yet the doctrine of Baptism expressed in an Article [Note 4]? To take a parallel case: supposing in the writings of several of our own divines, we found what professed to be an abstract of the Thirty-nine Articles, is it conceivable that one and all should omit every allusion to those Articles which treat of the controversy between us and the Romanists? is it conceivable they should say, "the English Church binds all her ministers on entering the Church to subscribe their assent to the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, Original Sin, Election, and the Sacraments; this is all she exacts of them, in every diocese"? Would any one say such an account would do justice to the prominence which the Articles give to the Roman controversy? and could any number of distinct writers coincide in giving it? I think not; and this is precisely parallel to what is supposed by Roman theologians of the Primitive Fathers, viz. that they were in the habit of excluding from their abstract or table of essential and vital truths [Note 5], those which, if Romanism be true, were some of the most essential, the most prominent, practical, and influential, or rather, I may say, the engrossing doctrines; that they asserted that to be the whole which after all was but a part; that a silence which would be unnatural in us who deny, is conceivable in those who enforced these doctrines as saving. {224}


But perhaps it will be granted, that these doctrines were not part of the formal teaching of the early Church; but will nevertheless be maintained that they were floating opinions, commonly received, and true, though unrecognized as true, mixed with error as held by individuals, and undefined; but that, when the necessity arose, they were sifted, accurately determined, and enforced, and so became an addition to the Rule of Faith. Nay, but we are expressly told by the Fathers that this Rule does not admit of increase [Note 6]; it is, "sole, unalterable, unreformable;" not a hint been given us of the Church's power over it. To guard and to transmit it, not to remodel it, is her sole duty, as St. Paul has determined in his 2nd Epistle to Timothy. What a contrast to passages such as the foregoing, what a violation of them, is the Creed of Pope Pius, which was the result of the proceedings at Trent! whether or not its articles be true, which is a distinct question. IrenŠus, Tertullian, and the rest cite the Apostles' Creed and say, "This is the faith which makes a Christian, the essentials of revelation, the great truths of which the Gospel consists, the saving doctrine, the treasure committed to the Church;" but in the Creed of Pope Pius, after adding to it the recognition of the seven Sacraments, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, the Invocation of Saints, Image-worship, and Indulgences, the Romanist declares, "This true Catholic Faith, out of which no one can be saved, which I at present freely profess and truly hold, this same do I promise, vow, and swear by God's assistance, most constantly to retain and confess, whole and inviolate, to the last breath of life." Now, I repeat, the question at present is, not whether these additions are true or false, but {225} whether they are so clearly revealed and so powerfully and persuasively recommended to the convictions of individual Christians, as to be portions of the necessary and saving Catholic Faith [Note 7]. Are we to understand that the words "out of which no one can be saved," attaches to every one or any one of those additions? if so, whence is the Roman Church's or the Church Catholic's power to add to that essential Faith which St. Jude declares, and the Fathers witness, to be once for all delivered to the Saints?


But here we are met with this objection, that the Papal Church has but acted in the spirit of the Nicene Council in its additions to its Creed; that the Council added the celebrated word HomoŘsius, or, "of one substance with the Father," when our Lord's divinity was denied by the Arians, and that Rome has added twelve articles as protests against the heresies of the sixteenth century. To which I answer by asking, is there no difference between adding a word and adding a doctrine, between explaining what is in the Creed and inserting what was not in it? Surely it was not inconsistent with the reverence due to it, for the Church Catholic, after careful deliberation, to clear up any ambiguity which, as time went on, might be found to exist in its wording. The words of the Creed were not inspired; they were only valuable as expressing a certain sense, and if they were found deficient in expressing that sense, there was as little interference with things sacred, as little real change, in correcting or supplying what was needful, as in completing the lines of a {226} chart or map by the original. That original was the one universally received Faith, which was in the minds and mouths of all Christians without variation or ambiguity. When the early Christians used the words, "Son of God," they did not use a dead letter; they knew what they meant by it, and they one and all had the same meaning. In adding, then, the explanation "consubstantial with the Father," they did but fix and perpetuate that meaning, as it had been held from the beginning, when an attempt had been made to put a new sense upon it.

And this view of the subject will account for such variations in the separate articles of the Creed, as occurred anciently in different Churches. The one Faith, cast into one general type, was from the first developed in this or that place with varieties in the detail, according to accidental or other circumstances. As in the first preaching of the Gospel, one convert was admitted to Baptism on confessing Jesus to be the Christ, and another on confessing Him to be the Son of God, not as if the one confession excluded the other, but because the one and the other were but different symbols, indications, or specimens of the same and only true doctrine, so as regards the formal Creed which the Apostles afterwards adopted and bequeathed to the Church, in one country a certain article might be added, in another omitted, without interfering with its substantial identity, or its accuracy as a summary or sketch of the Faith once delivered. Thus the Roman Creed speaks of "the forgiveness of sins," the Eastern, of the "One Baptism for the remission of sins," and the African, of "forgiveness of sins through the Holy Church;" [Note 8] yet all of them speak of but one and the same great and blessed doctrine, variously described and developed. Again, the Roman Creed speaks of Almighty God as "Maker of heaven and earth;" the Eastern adds, {227} "and all things visible and invisible;" while in the African the words run, if Tertullian gives them exactly, "who produced all things out of nothing by His Word." These variations were as far from evidencing any real difference between these formularies, as difference in the headings of chapters in separate editions of the Bible argues difference in those chapters; and interfere as little with the integrity and oneness of the Catholic Creed, as the variations in the Lord's Prayer, as delivered to us by St. Matthew and St. Luke, prevent our considering it one and the same form [Note 9].


Accordingly, we must consider the Nicene and the Apostles' Creed as identical; the latter the Creed of the West, the former of the East, from the beginning; and, as it differs from itself as received in those two great divisions of Christendom in immaterial points, so in turn in the separate countries of East and West, it varies in similar details. And to this day, as the Creed called Apostles' is used in Baptism throughout the West, (as among ourselves,) so is the Nicene used on the same occasion in the Greek Church [Note 10]. And thus we gain perhaps a truer view of what was done at NicŠa, than at first sight is likely to be taken. The assembled Fathers did not so much add to the Creed, as consolidate, harmonize, and make uniform the various formularies of the East [Note 11]. The phrases "God from God, Light from Light," and the like, were not the framing of the Council, but were such as had already been in use here or there, and might be {228} adopted to advantage everywhere. Accordingly, the word "HomoŘsius," or consubstantial, is perhaps the only word which can be considered as really an addition, and this even was no novel term, but one of long standing in Christendom, having already been publicly and solemnly recognized by the great Churches of the East, South, and West, and introduced at this time, as I have said, merely in explanation of a great article of faith, held from the first, but then needing, from circumstances, a more accurate wording [Note 12].


It is well, moreover, to observe the honourable jealousy, (as it may be called,) which even this addition, unexceptionable and needful as it was, excited in the Western, nay, in the universal Church [Note 13]. Even at this day, as I have already remarked, it does not occur in our Creed of Baptism. After its adoption, at NicŠa, new heresies as to our Lord's nature arose; but in spite of them, Athanasius, its illustrious champion, was firm against the attempt, which was made by some parties, to add further explanations to the Creed. He was not even moved by the rise of the Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost, to develope the article in it relating to that doctrine of faith. Not, of course, that he would concede one jot or tittle to their heresy, but he might consider that, under the circumstances, the maintenance of the true doctrine would be better consulted by the unanimous voice of the Church diffusive, than by risking the disturbances which might follow upon a second explanation of the Creed in Council. This is shown by his conduct in the Council held at {229} Alexandria upon Julian's death. A rumour had been spread, that at a largely-attended Council held some years after the Nicene (viz. at Sardica), some addition had been made to the Creed on the subject of the Divine Nature. On occasion of this he made at the Alexandrian Council the following statement, which is found in that Council's letter to the Church of Antioch. "As to the paper which some speak of, as having been drawn up in the Council of Sardica respecting the faith ... that Council determined nothing of the kind. It is true that there were persons, who, on the plea that the Nicene Council was deficient, urged additions to the faith, and that in a headstrong way; but the Holy Council was indignant, and determined that no additions should be made, the Nicene Creed being sufficient … lest a pretext should be afforded to those who desired to make frequent definitions of the faith." Influenced by the same feelings he desired no addition to the Creed in order to meet the heretical tenets of the Apollinarians; and all through his writings no point is urged more constantly, earnestly, and decidedly than this, that the Nicene Faith is sufficient to confute all heresies on the subject of the Divine Nature.

The second General Council, indeed, after his death, supplied with great caution, and apparently from existing Creeds, some words declaratory of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit; but this being done, the Creed was finally closed and sealed once for all. Subsequent Councils might indeed profitably record their unanimous Traditions of its sense, or of doctrines collateral, but the baptismal Confession, the Creed of the Church, remained unalterable. At the third General Council (A.D. 432) it was expressly determined that "it should not be lawful for any to publish or compose another Faith or Creed than that which was defined by the Nicene Council, and that whosoever should dare to compose or offer any such to any persons willing to be {230} converted from Paganism, Judaism, or heresy, if they were Bishops or clergy, they should be deposed; if laymen, they should be excommunicated." The Fourth General Council, nineteen years after, confirmed this decree, declaring that "the Faith formerly determined should, at no hand, in no manner, be shaken or moved any more." Nor was there from that time any material interference with the Creed till the error of the Council of Trent; when the Creed of Pope Pius, embodying the decrees there made, was imposed as a test of ourselves and other Protestants [Note 14].


Athanasius's rule, as has been incidentally observed, was to restrain heresy rather by the existing Creed and the witness of the Church Catholic interpreting and enforcing it, than by adding to its articles even in explanation; to adhere to the Creed and to anathematize its opposers [Note 15]. So reluctant was he to perplex scrupulous and hesitating minds, as even to admit to communion the existing Semi-arians of his day, who repudiated the HomoŘsion with an unaccountable violence; influenced, that is, by the notion that the men in question really believed in accordance with the Church Catholic, and only scrupled at the {231} term. At the same time he would not consent to their holding any office in the Church, as conceiving that an error which was but verbal in their case and the result of some peculiarity of mind, would be real and perilous in the mass of those who were submitted to their teaching, especially when the point in controversy had once been stirred [Note 16].


Athanasius then considered the doctrine of the Trinity sufficiently developed in the Creed, as we now have it, for all practical purposes; at the same time his enforcement of the HomoŘsion shows he recognized the principle of such explanation. In like manner, then, had the need arisen and discretion recommended, he would have been prepared to clear up by the voice of the Church Catholic, those other articles which have come down to us in their primitive simplicity. Had, for instance, any heresy spread far and wide in his day, denying the powers of the Church, it would have been in accordance with the precedent of NicŠa, to have taken into the Catholic formulary the African article already quoted of "forgiveness of sins through the Holy Church," as a witness or preservative against the error. Again, Pelagius's rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin had indeed been condemned from the first by the same article as it now stands; but had circumstances permitted, I suppose the occasion would have justified the addition of the words "both original sin and actual," to the article "forgiveness of sins." [Note 17] The doctrine of the Atonement is already declared in the Nicene and implied in the Roman, or Apostles' Creed; but, had a {232} Socinus then arisen, it might have been more pointedly expressed, under sanction of a General Council, by way of fixing and perpetuating the Church's meaning. Nay, such an explanation of the original wording might be made, I conceive, even now, if the whole of Christendom agreed together in the explanation, and in such explanation conveying the uniform sense of the Church Catholic, and in its expediency. At the same time the Church necessarily has less power over the Creed now than anciently; for at first it was but a form of sound words, subservient to a Faith vividly and accurately engraven on the heart of every Christian, and so of secondary value; but now that the living power of truth has declined, it is a witness of the primitive, instead of being a mere summary of an existing Faith. Since traditionary teaching has been impaired, it has become almost sacred from being the chief remains left us of apostolical truth; as the likeness of a friend, however incomplete in itself, is cherished as the best memorial of him, when he has been taken from us.

If, then, as we have seen, a more accurate delineation of the articles of the Creed was not to be attempted but with great caution even by the early Church Catholic, what can be said in defence of the Roman Church, which created at Trent a new Creed, and published anathemas against all objectors? or in what assignable way does the introduction of the HomoŘsion into the Creed, in explanation of an existing article, justify the addition at Trent of essentially distinct doctrines [Note 18], of articles about Image-worship, the Invocation of Saints, and the authority of {233} Tradition, and this on the sanction of but a portion of the Church Catholic then in Council represented?


And now enough has been said by way of showing what the Faith is which was once delivered to the Saints, that Faith which is ever to remain in the world, which is the treasure and the life of the Church, the qualification of membership, and the rule of her teaching. The Creed commonly so called, not in its mere letter, but in its living sense, is this Faith, "the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls;" to deny or resist which, is no lawful use of Private Judgment, but heresy or scepticism. We find it declared to be all this by the Church in the beginning; we find it actually maintained by all its branches even in this day of division. True it is that in the Roman Communion other articles are enforced also; but this very circumstance, being irreconcilable with the spirit of primitive teaching, is our principal ground of complaint against that Church. She has "cursed those whom God has not cursed, and defied those whom the Lord has not defied." [Note 19] {234}


Before concluding, I will briefly notice a similar objection, which superficial persons have urged by way of retort against ourselves. It is argued that the English Church, having drawn up Articles and imposed them on the Clergy and others, has in fact committed the same fault which her advocates allege against Rome, viz. of adding without authority to the necessary faith of a Christian.

But this is surely a great misconception of the state of the case. The Thirty-nine Articles are "Articles of religion," not of "faith." We do not consider the belief in them necessary to salvation, except so far as they embody in them the articles of the Creed. They are of no divine authority, except so far as they embody these and similar portions of Apostolical Tradition; but they come to us on ecclesiastical sanction; and they have a hold on us over and above this, first because they have been adopted by the Saints of our Church for some centuries; secondly, because in our private judgment we think them scriptural; thirdly, because we have subscribed them. Further, they are not necessary terms of communion in our Church, being imposed, not on all our members, but principally on the Clergy. In truth, their imposition in its first origin was much more a political than an ecclesiastical act; it was a provision of the State rather than of the Church, though the Church co-operated. I mean, that the jealousy of Rome entertained by the Civil Power, was the principle of the Reformation, considered historically; and that the outward form into which our religion was cast, has depended in no slight measure on the personal opinions and wishes of laymen and foreigners. Thus, our Articles were, in the first instance, a test; a test, whether the Clergy of the Church Catholic in England were willing to exercise their ministry on certain conditions, with the {235} stipulation on the other hand that, if so, they should be protected not persecuted, and a legal recognition extended to those rights and privileges which from the beginning have been chartered to them by God Himself. But the Church Catholic knows nothing of tests, beyond the Baptismal test, if it must be so called; so that our Articles, far from being an addition on our part to the necessary faith, were in the first instance but indirectly connected with the Church at all.


I say the Church is not familiar with tests, not as if she may not adopt them as a matter of expedience, if she thinks fit, but because they are but the resort of authority when it is weak. We bind men with oaths when we can secure their fidelity in no other way; but the Church Catholic is inherently strong, can defend herself, and fears nothing. Ignorance of her own power is her only weakness. She admits her members on their profession of Christianity, and if in the event they become heretical, she ejects them as she admitted them. The power of the keys is the antagonist of Private Judgment. But when, from circumstances, she suspends her use of that power, being deprived of her natural defence, she needs others; she makes "alliances," so called, or appeals to her civil rights; and in like manner declarations and pledges on the part of her members may become a suitable, as well as necessary expedient, for securing herself against the encroachments of heresy.

Accordingly in England she co-operates with the State in exacting subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, as a test; and that, not only of the Clergy, but also of the governing body in our Universities,—a test against Romanism; but, while so doing, she has, after her manner, modified and elevated their original scope in a way well worthy of our gratitude. {236}


The faulty principle, involved in the decrees of Trent, is, not the mere publication of doctrines, not contained in the Creed, but the enforcement of these as necessary points of faith. To collect, systematize, and set forth the Traditions of the Church, is surely a most edifying and important work, and great is our debt to Councils, modern or ancient, in proportion as they have attempted this; even though the direct Apostolical origin of every phrase or view of doctrine they adopt, be not certain. Now the Articles of our Church must be taken as doing this for us in their place and degree. It is no valid objection to them, whether the fact be so or not, that they are but partially drawn from Traditionary sources, or that the individual authors of them are unknown, and the state of feeling and opinion in the writers at the moment of their writing them, or that they were inclined to what is now called either Calvinism, or Arminianism, or some of them to the one, some to the other. Such objections, however popular, are very superficial. The Church is not built upon individuals, nor knows individuals. We do not receive the Articles from individuals, however celebrated, but as recommended to us by our Church itself; and whether we judge of the Church's meaning in imposing them by the consent of her Divines since their imposition, or by the intention of that Convocation [Note 20], which immediately ratified them, we shall come to this conclusion, that whatever have been the designs or feelings of individuals, she herself intends us to receive them as portions of Catholic teaching, as expressing and representing that Ancient Religion, which of old time found voice and attained consistency in Athanasius, Basil, Augustine, Chrysostom, and other primitive Doctors [Note 21]. {237} This is plain, I say, to a demonstration, from the words of the Convocation of 1571; which, on the one hand reviewed and confirmed the Thirty-nine Articles, and on the other enjoined by Canon, that preachers "should be careful, that they never teach aught in a sermon, to be religiously held and believed by the people, except that which is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and which the Catholic Fathers and Ancient Bishops have collected from that very doctrine." It is evident that the Divines who drew up this Canon, did not dream, (to use a common phrase), of the Thirty-nine Articles in any degree superseding or interfering with the Ancient Catholic teaching, or of their burdening us with the novelties of any modern school. Nor is there anything in their "literal and grammatical sense," of which the King's Declaration speaks, inconsistent with this Ancient Teaching, whatever obscurities may hang over their origin historically,—a subject, which that Declaration renders unimportant.


The Thirty-nine Articles, then, are adopted by our Church in a sense equally remote from the peremptory dogmatism of Rome, and from the cold and narrow spirit which breathes in a test. They are neither enforced as necessary for communion, nor serve the mere negative purpose of excluding error; but they are instruments of teaching, of Catholic teaching, being, as far as they go, heads, as it were, of important chapters in revealed truth. And it is as thus viewing them, that we put them before the young, not by way of ascertaining their Churchmanship, but as the particular forms under which we teach the details of faith, the basis on and out of which the superstructure of theology may be most conveniently raised. {238}

Such, then, seems to be the light in which we are to regard our Articles; and till they are imposed on all our members as terms of communion, they are quite consistent with the prerogative accorded, as we have seen, by Antiquity to the Apostolic Creed, quite distinct from the forcible imposition of the Tridentine Articles on the part of Rome.

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1. 1 Cor. xv. 3.
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2. Iren. HŠr. i. 10. Tertull. de Vel. Virg. i. Const. Apost. vii. 40, 41. Cyril. Hier. Cat. v. Ed. Ben. p. 84. "Contineri symbolo totum fidei objectum docet prŠter alios [Pseudo-] Augustinus Serm. 115 de Tempore." Bellarm. de Just. i. 9. Vid. ib. references, p. 719.
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3. [Surely no one can say otherwise. Is original sin, is the inspiration of Scripture, no point of Faith because it is not in the Creed? Were not the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and of the Holy Eucharist taught after baptism? at least they are not in the Creed.]
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4. [Doctrines remain implicit till they are contravened; then they are stated in explicit form. The Creed contains the primary, rudimental articles, those which St. Paul calls the "elementa exordii sermonum Dei."]
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5. [Not a table of the sole essential and vital, but of the elementary and initial. The 39 Articles are directly controversial, and to make a summary of them without reference to their points of controversy would be to omit what is characteristic and distinctive in them. Image-worship was not, like baptism, necessary; it was not in controversy then;—it could not then be even contemplated; and it would have encouraged idol-worship.]
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6. [But Vincent, as quoted supr. p. 73, says that, though unalterable, it admits of growth.]
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7. [New questions, new opinions are ever rising in the Church, and she has the power of answering those questions, and judging those opinions with infallible exactness, when they relate to faith and morals. If she cannot say Yes or No, how can she teach the Truth?]
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8. Vid. Austin. Serm. 215, fin. t. 5. p. 952.
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9. [The African "forgiveness through the Church" would surely, to a Protestant, be as much an addition to the Creed as "Purgatory."]
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10. Wall on Baptism, part ii. 9. ž 13.
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11. The Benedictine Editor says in Cyrill. Hier. p. 80, that the Nicene Creed did not supersede the Antiochene till up to the middle of the fifth century.
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12. [But it must be recollected that the Fathers at NicŠa added anathemas which really included in them important additions to the Creed, though made for the sake of clearness, such as "our Lord was without beginning," &c.]
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13. Taylor, Dissuasive, part ii. 1. ž 4.
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14. [The Apostles' Creed is rudimental; the so-called Creed of Pope Pius is controversial, and in this point of view is parallel to the Thirty-nine Articles, which no one would call a creed. We may call it Pope Pius's Creed improperly, as we call the Hymn Quicunque the Athanasiun "Creed," because it contains what is necessary for salvation, but there can be but one rudimental and catechetical formula, and that is the Creed, Apostolic or Nicene.]
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15. [meden pleon apaitesete par' auton, e anathematizein men ten Areianen hairesin, homologein de ten para ton hagion pateron homologetheisan en Nikaiai pistin; anathematizein de kai tous legontas ktisma einai to Pneuma to hagion. k.t.l.]—Ath. tom. ad Antioch. 3. This practice formed a curious negative comment on the Creed as time went on. [True, but that comment was an addition to the credenda, though not to the Creed, just as are the Canons of the Council of Trent.]
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16. [The addition of the Filioque must not be forgotten. But vid. Dr. Pusey's recent most interesting work upon it.]
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17. [Surely this is giving up the point in dispute. Original sin is as much external to the Creed as the Immaculate Conception. There is an attempt to answer this representation in Lecture X. by an assumed principle.]
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18. [There is no addition by Rome of these Articles to the Creed, because the Creed, being rudimental, does not admit of their addition. They are articles in the Depositum (as Anglicans hold "Inspiration of Scripture" to be) that is, revealed truths, but not the subjects of primary instruction.]
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19. [The argument urged against the Catholic Church in this Lecture is, that, unlike the Anglican, she has enforced by an anathema, as if necessary points of faith, doctrines not contained in the Creed. I answer, 1. Why should not she? the Articles in the Creed are not the only revealed truths, but those intended for catechumens, as being rudimental, initial, elementary. 2. If she does so, so did the Council of NicŠa; viz. it added to the Creed under anathema, that our Lord was not made of created matter, that He had no beginning, that He was a Son from eternity, and that He was immutable. 3. So does the Athanasian Symbol Quicunque; viz. it teaches under anathema that the Holy Ghost is God, that He proceeds from Father and Son, that the Three Divine Persons are co-equal, that the Son took on Him a human soul as well as body, that the Divine nature did not become incarnate, and that future punishment will be eternal. 4. So do Anglicans and Evangelicals; viz. they hold as necessary points of faith those in the Nicene addition and in the Quicunque, also original sin, inspiration of Scripture, salvation only through Christ, ("They are to be had accursed," &c.), justification by faith, the impiety of works of supererogation, and the blasphemousness of Masses.]
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20. Waterland on Ecclesiastical Antiquity, 8.
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21. [This is the principle on which the Thirty-nine Articles are interpreted No. 90 of the Tracts for the Times.]
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