THE APOSTLES' CREED
THE REV. JAMES DODDS, D.D.
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Though I am an old Doctor of Divinity, to this day I have not got beyond the children's learning—the Ten Commandments, the Belief, and the Lord's Prayer; and these I understand not so well as I should, though I study them daily, praying with my son John and my daughter Magdalen.—LUTHER'S Table-Talk.
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1 I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
SECTION 1. I BELIEVE 2. GOD 3. THE FATHER 4. ALMIGHTY 5. MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
2 AND IN JESUS CHRIST HIS ONLY SON OUR LORD
SECTION 1. AND IN JESUS CHRIST 2. JESUS 3. CHRIST 4. HIS ONLY SON 5. OUR LORD
3 WHO WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY GHOST, BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
4 SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED
SECTION 1. SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE 2. WAS CRUCIFIED 3. DEAD 4. AND BURIED
5 HE DESCENDED INTO HELL, THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD
SECTION 1. HE DESCENDED INTO HELL 2. THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD
6 HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN AND SITTETH ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY
7 FROM THENCE HE SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
8 I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST
9 THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
SECTION 1. THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH 2. THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
10 THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS
11 THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
12 AND THE LIFE EVERLASTING
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SOME BOOKS ON THE APOSTLES' CREED OR BEARING UPON ARTICLES THEREOF
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Dr. Dodds' Exposition of the Apostles' Creed will supply a real need. It contains a careful, well-informed, and well-balanced statement of the doctrines of the Church which are expressed or indicated in the Creed, and it will be helpful to many as arranging the passages of Scripture on which these doctrines rest. Though historical references could have been easily made, the Editors agree with the author in thinking that to insert them in the discussion of doctrines would have probably perplexed the readers for whom the book is designed.
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The title and purpose of this Handbook limit its subject matter to an exposition of the doctrines which have place in the summary of belief termed the Apostles' Creed. It is not meant to cover the whole field of Christian doctrine.
A history of the Creed has not been attempted. There is much that is interesting in its origin and growth. It did not come into existence all at once, but was built up from time to time by the insertion of clauses formulated by Councils or by leading representatives of the Christian Church. The space available is not sufficient to include a history.
The Handbook being not controversial but expository, references to the heretics and heresies that gave occasion for the articles which have place in the Creed are few and brief.
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THE APOSTLES' CREED
While the disciples had Jesus with them, there was no occasion for a formal summary of the doctrines which His followers were called to accept and to maintain. He was present to resolve all doubts and settle all difficulties, so that when their faith was assailed or their teaching impugned they could refer to Him. Then, as now, faith had Him for its object,—with this difference, that He was visibly at hand to counsel and to direct, while now He is passed into the heavens and guides His people into all truth, not by personal instruction but by His invisible though ever present Spirit.
Another reason why Jesus gave His disciples no creed may be found in the fact that His work was not finished until He had laid down His life, and that no creed could have been satisfactory which did not cover those great unfulfilled events in His history that lie at the foundation of the Christian religion.
Jesus did indeed require belief in Himself as a condition on which healing and salvation were bestowed. Unbelief hindered His work, while faith in His Messianic claims and mission never failed to secure a rich blessing to those who confessed Him. The faith which He recognised was not the acceptance and confession of a summary of doctrine such as any of the Creeds now existing, but a simple statement of belief in Himself as the Son of God and the Messiah. On one occasion only does He appear to have called for a confession which went further than this, when, having declared to Martha the great doctrine of Resurrection, He put to her the question, "Believest thou this?"
After His death and resurrection, when Jesus charged His disciples to preach the Gospel, He bade them teach their followers to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. The Apostles, accordingly, appear to have furnished the leaders of the churches they planted with summaries of doctrine, such as we find in the fifteenth chapter of Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul seems to refer to such a summary when he writes to the Romans commending them for obedience to the "form of doctrine" which was delivered them, and when he bestows his benediction on those Galatians who walked according to "this rule." It was, doubtless, such a compendium of doctrine he had in view when he charged Timothy to "keep that which was committed to his trust," contrasting this "deposit" with "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called." The bearing of this charge is made more emphatic when it is repeated by the Apostle in connection with the exhortation, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
It would thus appear that from Apostolic times there existed a form of words of the character of a creed, which, for some reason, came to be jealously guarded and concealed from all who were not Christians. It was perhaps Paul's reference to the summary of doctrine as a "deposit" to be carefully kept, that led the early converts to regard it as a private possession—a trust to be hidden in the heart and covered from unfriendly eyes. The Apostle did not mean that it should be so regarded, but this interpretation given to his words, or some other cause, led to its being used as a watchword rather than as an open confession, the consequence of which is that in the writings of the earliest Christian fathers no statement of doctrines corresponding to a creed is found.
The absence of creeds or of allusions to them in the oldest Christian treatises gives seeming point to the objection urged by Professor Harnack and others against the Apostles' Creed as now held and interpreted by the Church, that it is not a correct summary of early Christian belief. That such objections are not well founded will become apparent as the various articles of the Creed are considered in the light of Apostolic teaching. The absence of creeds in early Christian writings is sufficiently accounted for by the care with which the summary was cherished as a secret trust, to be treasured in the memory but not to be written or otherwise profaned by publicity.
The word "creed"—derived from the Latin "credo, I believe"—is, in its ecclesiastical sense, used to denote a summary or concise statement of doctrines formulated and accepted by a church. Although usually connected with religious belief, it has a wider meaning, and designates the principles which an individual or an associated body so holds that they become the springs and guides of conduct. Some sects of Christians reject formal creeds and profess to find the Scriptures sufficient for all purposes that creeds are meant to serve. The Christian religion rests on Christ, and the final appeal on any question of doctrine must be to the Scriptures which testify of Him: but it is found that very different conclusions are often reached by those who profess to ground their beliefs upon the same passages of the Word of God. Almost every heresy that has disturbed the unity of the Church has been advocated by men who appealed to Scripture in confirmation of the doctrines they taught. The true teaching of the Word of God is gathered from careful and continuous searching of the Scriptures, and there is danger of fatal error when conclusions are drawn from isolated passages interpreted in accordance with preconceived opinions. It has been found not only expedient but needful that the Christian Churches should set forth in creeds and confessions the doctrines which they believe the Scriptures affirm. They are bound not only to accept Scripture as the rule of faith, but to make known the sense in which they understand it. As unlearned and unstable men wrest and subvert the Sacred Writings, it is fitting that those who are learned and not unstable should publish sound expositions of their contents. In the light of creeds, converts are enabled to test their own position, and to put to proof the claims of those who profess to be teachers of Christian doctrine.
One of the most widely accepted of these forms is the Apostles' Creed, so called, not because it was drawn up by, or in the time of, the Apostles—although there is a tradition to the effect that each of them contributed a clause—but because it is in accordance with the sum of Apostolic teaching. The history of this Creed is not easily traced. The care with which it was guarded excluded it from the writings of the early fathers, and it is impossible, therefore, to assign to their proper dates, with certainty, some of the articles of which it is composed. This, however, is evident, that it came gradually into existence, clauses being added from time to time to guard the faithful against false doctrine, or to enable them to defend the orthodox belief. It appears to have been the general creed of the Christian Church, in a form very similar to that which it now bears, from the close of the second century. At that time and afterwards it served not only as a test of Christian doctrine, but was also used by catechists in training and instructing candidates for admission to the Church.
It is sometimes urged as an objection to this Creed that it is not a sufficiently comprehensive summary of Christian doctrine. Those who object to it on this ground should consider the purpose of creeds. They were not meant to cover the whole field of Christian faith, but to fortify believers against the teaching of heretics. The Apostles' Creed was not intended, and does not profess, to state all the things that Christians ought to believe. There is no reference in it to Scripture, to Inspiration, to Prayer, or to the Sacraments. It sets forth in a few words, distinct and easily remembered, the existence and relations to men of the three Persons of the Godhead—those facts and truths on which all doctrine and duty rest, and from which they find development.
It is especially objected that there is no reference in this Creed to the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, though not directly expressed, this doctrine is really and substantially contained in it. The Creed is the confession of those whose bond of union is common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The articles which treat of Him and of His sufferings and work are intelligible only to those who believe in the reality and efficacy of the Atonement.
The Creed contains twelve articles, and to each of these, and to every part of it, the words "I believe" belong. One article relates to God the Father, six to God the Son, one to God the Holy Ghost, and four to the Holy Catholic Church and the privileges secured to its members. These articles are—
1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
2. And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord,
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried,
5. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead,
6. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
7. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost,
9. The Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of saints;
10. The Forgiveness of sins;
11. The Resurrection of the body,
12. And the Life Everlasting.
In estimating the value of creeds in the early ages of the Christian Church, it is important to bear in mind that the converts were almost wholly dependent on oral instruction for their knowledge of Divine truth. Copies of the Old and New Testaments existed in manuscript only. These were few in number, and the cost of production placed them beyond the reach of the great majority. A single copy served for a community or a district in which the Hebrew or the Greek tongue was understood, but in localities where other languages were in use the living voice was needed to make revelation known. It is only since the invention of printing and the application of the steam-engine to the economical and rapid production of books, and since modern linguists have multiplied the translations of the Bible, that it has become in their own tongues accessible to believers in all lands, available for private perusal and family reading. It was therefore a necessity that Christians should possess "a form of sound words," comprehensive enough to embody the leading doctrines of Christianity, yet brief enough to be easily committed to memory.
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1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
SECTION 1.—I BELIEVE
The Creed is the expression of personal belief. Whether spoken in private or in a public assembly, it is the confession of the faith held by each individual for himself. Each of us has a separate life, and each of us must personally accept God's message and express his own belief. Religion must influence men as units before it can benefit them in masses. Faith that saves is a gift of God which every one must receive for himself. The faith of one is of no avail for another, therefore the Creed begins with the affirmation "I believe." In repeating it we profess our own faith in what God has revealed concerning Himself.
"I believe."—The Apostles' Creed is a declaration of things which are most surely believed among us, and its several parts or articles are founded upon the contents of Scripture, which is our one rule of faith. It does not begin with the words I think or I know, but with the statement "I believe." "Belief" is used in various senses, but here it means the assent of the mind and heart to the doctrines expressed in the Creed. When we repeat the form we declare that we accept and adopt all the statements which it covers. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made."
Faith differs from knowledge. There are some things which we know to be true, and there are others of which we say we believe them to be true. There are certain truths which are termed axiomatic. When the terms in which they are expressed are understood, the truth they convey is at once admitted. We know that two and two make four, we know that two straight lines cannot enclose a space; but we do not know in the same sense those things which the Creed affirms. It deals with statements that, for the most part, have never been, and cannot be, tested by sense, and that cannot be demonstrated by such proof as will compel us to accept them. We believe them, not because it is impossible to withhold our assent, nor only because nature, history, and conscience confirm them, but on the ground of testimony. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." We believe because we are assured on sufficient and competent authority that these things are so. We know that we live in a material universe, but our knowledge does not extend to the manner in which the universe came into being. That is a matter of belief. "Through faith"—not by ocular or logical proof, but on testimony—"we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God."
Faith differs from opinion. When a man believes his mind is made up. By whatever process it may have been reached, the conclusion commends itself as one that is fixed and irreversible. Opinion, on the other hand, is held loosely. It is based not on certainty but on probability. The possibility of error is recognised, and the opinion is readily surrendered when the grounds on which it was formed are seen to be insufficient or misleading. "A man," says Coleridge, "having seen a million moss roses all red, concludes from his own experience and that of others that all moss roses are red. That is a maxim with him—the greatest amount of his knowledge upon the subject. But it is only true until some gardener has produced a white moss rose,—after which the maxim is good for nothing."
The testimony on which faith rests is human or Divine. It is human in so far as it is based on human experience and observation. It is Divine in so far as it rests upon the direct revelation of God. Faith in man is continually exercised in business and in all the departments of life. It is necessary to the very existence of society. Faith in God moves in another sphere. Its objects are not seen or temporal, and they do not rest for proof upon the testimony of man. It receives and assents to statements which are made on the authority of God, who knows all things, who therefore cannot be deceived, and who is truth and therefore cannot deceive us. On this Divine rock of faith, and not upon her own knowledge, the Christian Church rests. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater." Among Christian virtues faith stands first. It must precede everything else. It is the foundation on which all Christian character and life are built. "He that cometh unto God must believe that he is." "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
That which Christian faith realises and grasps is expressed in doctrine. Faith is not a separate and self-dependent grace. Its existence and growth arise from those things which are believed, and therefore it is necessary to study and understand, as far as we can, the doctrines of the Christian faith before we can possess or manifest belief. It is important that we should have a definite knowledge of these doctrines; that we should study them in relation to the Scriptures upon which they profess to be founded, and that we should be in a position to defend them against assailants. Thus faith will gather strength, and believers will be "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them with meekness and fear."
The existence of God is the basis of all religious belief. If there is no God, there is no moral obligation. If there is no Almighty Being to whom men owe existence, and to whom they must give account, worship is a vain show and systems of religion are meaningless. Theologians, therefore, from the days of the first Christian apologists to our own time, have endeavoured to establish by proof the doctrine of the Divine existence. To those who accept the authority of Scripture the existence of God is a fact which no argument can overthrow; but as there are many who reject this authority, evidence has been sought elsewhere than in Scripture to establish the doctrine. The arguments for the Being of God are mainly threefold, being drawn: (a) from the consciousness of mankind; (b) from the order and design that are manifest in the universe; and (c) from the written revelation which claims to have come to men from God Himself.
(a) (Consciousness) There is a wonderful agreement among men as to the existence of a great invisible Being by whom the world was created and is governed, and who charges Himself with the control and guidance of its inhabitants and concerns. In a land such as our own, in which Christianity has held place for many centuries, belief in God, however it may fail to produce holy living, is almost universal. This belief exercises a strong influence, and has contributed not a little to the formation of our national character. It is an atmosphere always around us, sustaining and promoting the healthy life of those even who are the least conscious of being affected by it. The belief is indelibly impressed upon our laws, our literature, and even our everyday occupations. It is stamped upon the relations men sustain to one another. It is this which for one day weekly suspends labour that Christians may have leisure to worship God and to meditate upon the duties they owe to Him. It is in recognition of this that we see tall spires pointing heavenward, and churches opening their portals to the inhabitants of crowded cities and to the dwellers in scattered villages. In Christian lands the consciousness of men bears testimony to the existence of God, but it is not in such lands only that this consciousness exists and confirms belief in the Divine. In the earliest times, long before history began to be written, such a consciousness was prevalent, leading men to faith in and worship of a Being or Beings infinitely greater than themselves, present with them and presiding, though invisibly, over their destinies. The study of Comparative Religion has shown how nearly the primeval inhabitants of lands widely distant from each other were at one in the views they had come to entertain. Hymns, prayers, precepts, and traditions are found in the sacred books of the great religions of the East, and archaeologists have deciphered on ancient monuments, and traced in primitive religious rites, clear evidence of belief in the existence of the Divine. The valleys of the Nile, of the Euphrates, and of the Tigris have revealed facts for the theologian's benefit that are almost exhaustless. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and in the religious hymns and the ritual of which they formed part in the sacred literature of Babylonia, there is proof that four thousand years ago hymns were sung in honour of the gods, and prayers were offered to propitiate them and secure their favour. But belief in God had place long before these hymns were sung or these prayers offered. This is shown by the existence of words in the most ancient hymns, prayers, and inscriptions which could not have been used unless the ideas which they conveyed had already existed in men's minds. These words—some of which are preserved in modern tongues—when traced to their roots, help greatly to explain the character of early religious thought, and prove the existence of a widely diffused belief in the Divine Being and His government. They serve as confirmation of a belief, which is in harmony with many facts, that God had revealed Himself to humanity before He furnished the revelation which has come down to us. Words are not originated by accident. They are expressions of real existences, and before they found place in hymns or prayers the ideas which they denoted must have been matters of faith or knowledge to those who used them. Before man is found professing faith in pagan deities some idea of God must have existed in his mind. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and so the idea of the Divine became perverted, and in its first simplicity was lost, and the multitude followed numberless shadows all illusory and vain. Still, there lingered remnants and traditions of belief in a Divine Creator and Governor which must have originated in such a primeval revelation as the book of Genesis records. We find there the statement that God revealed Himself to our first parents by direct intercourse. They heard and saw and talked with God. They therefore knew of the existence of God by personal perception, and the ideas they held regarding Him were founded on His own manifestation of Himself.
Closely connected with this consciousness is the sense of responsibility universally prevalent. There is a law written on the heart of every rational human being, under the guidance of which he recognises a distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. He possesses a faculty to which the name of conscience has been given, that convicts him of sin when he violates, and approves his conduct when he conforms to, its dictates. However much different peoples and different ages may be at variance in their particular ideas of what is right and what is wrong, the conception itself has place in all of them. There are certain fundamental notions as to what is just and what is unjust, what is virtuous and what is vicious, that find universal or all but universal acceptance. This power of distinguishing between right and wrong constitutes man a moral being, and separates him by infinite distance from the lower animals. To the beasts that perish there is nothing right or wrong. They live altogether according to nature, and have no responsibility. Man stands in a different relation to the Lawgiver who bestowed on him the faculty of conscience and impressed on his soul a conviction that he will have to give account for all his actions. The Being to whom he must give account is God.
(b) (Order) Another ground of this belief is the order manifest in the universe. There is a symmetry that pervades all material things of which we have knowledge. Part is adapted to part; objects are accurately adjusted to each other; "wheels within wheels" move smoothly; every portion fits into and works in harmony with every other portion without discord or jarring. It is unthinkable that these effects should be due to chance or to a cause that is without intelligence. The perfect arrangement of parts that work together must have been planned by a living Being of infinite wisdom, knowledge, and power. This Being, whose creatures they are, must exist. Behind the pervading order there must be personality, purpose, and action. The fool may say in his heart, "There is no God," but, as nature bears testimony to the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent Creator, reason calls for another conclusion.
(c) (Scripture) There is a limit to the knowledge of God which the consciousness of man and the order and design in the universe impart. These serve to establish the truth that God is, but they do not convey the intimation that He is a moral Governor and the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. They declare little of His character, and are silent as to many of the duties which He requires. To make God known, the teaching of conscience and of reason must be supplemented by revelation. It is in the Bible that the believer finds the strongest proofs of the existence of the Divine Being, and from the Bible he obtains also the most comprehensive and satisfying view of the Deity and of man's relation to Him. He there finds that what he has to believe concerning God is, that He is Jehovah—the Being infinitely and eternally perfect, self-existent, and self-sufficient; the only living and true God, there being none beside Him. The heathen believed in and worshipped many gods. The untutored savage peopled the groves with them, and the pagan philosopher built innumerable temples in their honour. The Pantheons of Greece and Rome were crowded with the statues of favourite deities. The doctrine of one living and true God was prominent in the revelation given to Israel. God's message by Moses had its foundation—truth in the proclamation: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." His glory and His work are shared by no other being. He is the absolute Sovereign and Lord of all creatures. In the Bible, too, man learns that God is his own personal God who cares for him, and to whom he owes love, allegiance, and obedience. All who refuse to believe in the existence of God reject the testimony of Scripture regarding Him, but to such as acknowledge its claim to be the Word of God, the evidence it supplies is convincing and all-sufficient.
Examination of ancient heathen religions and of the views they set forth regarding God shows clearly the distance at which they stand from the revelation of Scripture. The gods of the heathen were of like passions with their worshippers—selfish, cruel, vindictive, and without regard for equity or justice in their treatment of men. The God of the Bible, on the other hand, is a righteous God, merciful to His creatures, and desirous of their temporal and eternal wellbeing, and when He inflicts suffering it is not as a passionate Judge, but as a Father who chastens His children for their profit.
The doctrine of the Trinity of Persons in the God-head, though not expressly stared in the Creed, is implied in the clauses which refer to each of the Persons who compose it. There is one God, but in the Godhead there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, whose names indicate the relation in which each stands to the others.
Each of the Persons is complete and perfect God. While there are three Persons in the Godhead, the same in substance, equal in power and glory, these three are one. The doctrine thus stated is termed the doctrine of the Trinity. This word is not found in Scripture, but the truth which it expresses is set forth there, dimly in the Old Testament, distinctly in the New. In the first chapter of Genesis the word "God" is in the Hebrew a plural noun, and yet it is used with a singular verb, thus early seeming to intimate what afterwards is clearly made known, that there is a plurality of Persons, who yet constitute the one living and true God. The same indication of plurality in unity appears in the account of man's creation: "Let us make man." This doctrine of the Trinity is essentially one of revelation. Natural religion testifies to the existence, the personality, and the unity of God, but fails to make known that the unity of God is a unity of three Persons. The doctrine does not contradict reason, it is above reason.
It is sometimes said that the doctrine of the Trinity involves a contradiction in affirming that three Persons are one Person. This charge misrepresents the doctrine. Trinitarians do not say that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three Persons in the sense in which three men are three individuals. They believe that there is one God, and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are yet so distinct that the Father can address the Son, the Son can address the Father, and the Father can address and send the Spirit. God's ways are not as our ways. He is not a man that He should be limited by the conditions of human relationships. When we say there are three Persons in the Godhead, we use a word applicable to men, which, though the most fitting one at our disposal, must come far short of fully describing the relations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to each other. Possessing no celestial language, we cannot fully describe or understand heavenly things.
SECTION 3.—THE FATHER
The first Person in the Godhead is the Father. This name may be viewed (a) with reference to the second Person, Jesus Christ His only Son, or (b) as descriptive of His relation to believers in Christ Jesus, or (c) as indicating His universal Fatherhood as the Author and the Preserver of all intelligent creatures. The relation in which the Father stands to the Son, that He is His Father and has begotten Him, is one that we cannot explain. Any attempt to do so must be arrogant and misleading, for who "by searching can find out God"? Secret things belong unto God, but revealed things unto us and our children. The term "Father" is a relative one and involves the idea of sonship. No one who accepts the teaching of Scripture can doubt that the Father is God. The statements as to His attributes and universal government are so many and so strong that, but for other affirmations regarding Deity, we should naturally conclude that the Father alone is God. But the very name "Father" corrects such a view, and when we search the Scriptures we find it untenable. God is our Father, but He was "the Father" before He called man into being. From all eternity He was Father. As from everlasting to everlasting He is God, so from everlasting to everlasting He is Father. He did not become Father when His Son assumed human nature, but is such in virtue of His eternal relation to the Word as the Son of God. It is the Son's existence that constitutes Him Father; and that existence was in eternity. "I and my Father are one," is the Son's testimony to His eternal Sonship; and when He prays His Father to glorify Him, He asks to be glorified with the glory which He had with Him before the world was. There are other senses in which the first Person of the Godhead is termed Father. All men are declared to be His offspring, and those who have received the Spirit of adoption cry, "Abba, Father," and are taught, when they pray, to say, "Our Father."
In an exposition of the Creed the Fatherhood in relation to men generally, or to believers in particular, need not be considered. Here the name is used to indicate the relation in which the First Person stands to the Second, in virtue of which alone those who are adopted into fellowship with the Son become the children of God—the children of Christ's Father and their Father. The Scriptures teach that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Ghost is God. At the same time the doctrine of the Divine Unity is affirmed.
The difficulty felt in connection with the doctrine of Trinity in Unity has led to attempts in ancient and modern times to show that those passages of Scripture in which it appears to be taught may be otherwise interpreted. One explanation is, from the name of its first exponent, termed Sabellianism, or, the doctrine of a Modal Trinity. The view which it presents of the Divine Being is that the same Person manifests Himself at one time and in one relation as Father, at another time and in another relation as Son, and at a different time and in another relation as Holy Ghost. It attributes divinity to this One Divine Person in each of His manifestations, but denies that there are three Persons in the Godhead. The facts of Scripture do not accord with such a view of the Divine Personality. We find each Person addressing the Others and speaking of Himself and of Them as distinct Persons. Each speaking of Himself says "I." The Father says "Thou" to the Son, the Son says "Thou" to the Father, and the Father and the Son use the pronouns "He" and "Him" with reference to the Spirit. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Spirit testifies of the Son.
In the Athanasian Creed we find the following statement of this doctrine:—
"This is the Catholic Faith, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For the Person of the Father is one, of the Son another, of the Holy Ghost another. But the divinity of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Ghost is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Ghost is eternal. And yet these are not three eternal Beings but one eternal Being. As also there are not three uncreated beings, nor three infinite beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being."
It is sometimes said that the doctrine of the Trinity is of little practical importance, but such a view of it is inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture, and with the atoning work of Christ. It is the Divinity of the Son that gives efficacy to His sacrifice. As sinners we need pardon. Pardon must be preceded by propitiation, and if Christ is not Divine there is no propitiation. The doctrines of Scripture are so linked together that the rejection of one invalidates the others. If we deny the Trinity we deny the Gospel message of salvation, and we accordingly find that most of those who reject the doctrine of the Trinity do not believe in the reality and efficacy of Christ's atonement.
The term "Almighty," which occurs twice in the Creed, represents two Greek words, the one denoting absolute dominion, the other infinite power in operation. When we say that God the Father is Almighty, we affirm that He is possessed of entire freedom of action, and that His power is unlimited. He cannot, indeed, act in opposition to His own nature. In executing His eternal decrees none can stay His hand from working, but He can do nothing that would derogate from His eternal power and Godhead. Such inability has its origin not in any limitation of power, or restriction imposed from without, but in Himself. He knows all things and so cannot be tempted of evil. He can do whatever He wills, but His will cannot contradict His character.
The statement that God is Almighty implies that all beings are governed and controlled by Him. All things, save Himself, are His creatures and subject to Him. Even those things that seem to resist and defy His authority are under His government. Rebellion serves but to make His omnipotence more apparent, for He causeth the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He restraineth. He so governs the universe that all things work together, and work together for good to them that love Him.
When we say, "God the Father Almighty," it is not meant that the Son and the Holy Ghost are not Almighty. The Father is Almighty because He is God, the Son, who is one with the Father, is God and therefore Almighty, and the Holy Ghost is also God and therefore Almighty. In the unity of the Godhead the same attributes mark the three Persons.
SECTION 5.—MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
Belief in the Almighty power of God is further declared by a confession of faith in Him as the Maker of heaven and earth, and this is but a repetition of the statement contained in the first chapter of Genesis—the only account of Creation which is fitted to solve all difficulties and to meet all objections. "Maker" in this article is used in the sense of Creator, implying that heaven and earth were called into existence out of nothing by the word of Divine power; and by "heaven and earth" are meant all creatures, visible and invisible, that have existed or do exist.
Those who object to the Scripture statements regarding Creation have maintained views as to the origin of the material universe differing largely from those held by persons who accept this article of the Creed, and differing also greatly from one another. Various solutions have been given, among which may be stated:—
(a) The view of those who hold that all phenomena and all existence originate in Chance or a blind fortuitous concourse of atoms. To state such a doctrine is to refute it. No one possessed of reason can believe in his heart that Intelligence did not create and organise matter, or that the material universe, with all its adaptation of parts, was evolved, and is governed, by chance or accident. This theory, if it is worthy of the name, seems to have been devised in order to evade the idea that man is subject to Divine government.
(b) Another view is that all existence owes its origin to Fate or Necessity and is now held in its resistless grasp. The advocates of this theory are at variance among themselves. One school maintains that all things existed from eternity in their present condition, and are destined to continue as they are, controlled by relentless and undeviating necessity. Another school—the ancient Fatalists—held that at first there was a fortuitous concourse of atoms and phenomena, until Fate or Chance decided the present order, which became an established necessity. A third class hold doctrines of Development. Some of them agree with the ancient Fatalists in maintaining that development, in a fortuitous concourse and action of matter and force, issued in evolution or originated a course of evolution. Others again deny fortuitous concourse and affirm that this process of evolution had no external beginning, but has continued from eternity under the control of evolutionary law. The term "law" as used by them has no specific meaning, and is simply an adaptation, to a theory naturally atheistic, of a word which may serve to commend their doctrine. The "law" of which they speak has its origin in matter itself, and is not under the control of a Supreme Intelligence. That this is the fact is shown by the denial of free-will in man and of the superintending providence of God; of the efficacy of prayer and of the forgiveness of sin; and by the prominence given in their writings to the absolute control of all things by undeviating, unchanging law.
(c) A third view affirms that while there is a distinction between the Ego and the non-Ego (the me and the not-me), it is impossible to know anything about either in its essence. That they exist and that they are different are facts within our knowledge, but as to the absolute nature of mind and matter we can discover and believe nothing. The ultimate or absolute is beyond our reach, as is the infinite and unconditioned. We can have no knowledge of First Causes, or of the Ultimate Cause, or of the Absolute Cause. The infinite cannot even be apprehended, and those who undertake to learn or to speculate regarding the infinite engage in a task beyond their powers. Such knowledge is not practical. The term "God" is merely an expression for a mode of the unknowable, conveying no meaning to those who use it. The view thus expressed originated in concessions unhappily made by certain writers, as Sir William Hamilton and Dean Mansel, who, thinking to defend revealed religion, taught that reason cannot know the Infinite, and that therefore the Infinite must reveal Himself. Herbert Spencer took advantage of this concession, and carried it to a logical conclusion, when he argued that, if reason could not know or apprehend the Infinite by reason, neither could it by revelation.
(d) Another class hold the view which is termed cosmogonies than that of Moses, whether contained in the sacred books of religions that have long existed, or professing to be based on modern scientific discovery, raise difficulties that are insuperable. Whence came matter if not from the creative word of God? To assign eternity to it is to invest it with an attribute that is Divine, and Pantheists carry such an explanation to its logical conclusion when they affirm that the universe is God. The existence of a single atom is an unfathomable mystery. Man cannot create or destroy even a particle of matter. How overwhelming, then, if we reject the simple statement of the Bible, is the mystery of the great universe, in whose extended space suns, planets, stars, and systems unceasingly revolve, and in which our own world is but a little speck. All things created point to God as their origin and source. "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."
"I asked the earth," wrote Augustine in his Confessions, "and it answered me, 'I am not He.' And whatsoever things are in it confirmed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps and the living creeping things, and they answered, 'We are not thy God, seek above us.' I asked the morning air, and the whole air with its inhabitants answered, 'Anaximenes was deceived, we are not thy God.' I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, 'Nor,' say they, 'are we the God whom thou seekest.' And I replied unto all the things which encompass the door of my flesh, 'Ye have told me of my God that ye are not He: tell me something more of Him.' And they cried out with a loud voice, 'He made us.'"
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And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord
SECTION 1.—AND IN JESUS CHRIST
The first article of the Apostles' Creed has numerous adherents. Jews and Christians are at one in affirming their belief in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Many too who, unlike Jews and Christians, have not been favoured with a written revelation, have yet risen to the conception of such a Divine Being as that article sets forth. Mohammedans believe in an Omnipotent Creator, and many thoughtful heathens have accepted and maintained the doctrine as an article of faith. It expresses a conviction reached by Plato and Aristotle, by Seneca and Epictetus, and is a truth proclaimed by Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints. No belief regarding things invisible is more generally professed.
It is otherwise with the second article of the Creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord," which expresses doctrines so hotly disputed that they prove the saying true, "This child is set for a sign which shall be spoken against." It is rejected by the Jew and the Mohammedan, and finds opponents in many who profess to accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as a Divine revelation, and to regard the exemplary life of Jesus as a model to be copied, while they deny His Divine origin, His sacrificial death, and His universal authority.
The early controversies concerning the Second Person of the Trinity were disputes regarding His nature and the relation in which He stands to the Father. Certain heretics affirmed that Jesus was a mere man, selected by God and specially endowed with the gift of His Spirit. Others maintained that Christ was not God, but a created spirit, nearest to the Father in dignity, who took upon Him human nature, and, having finished the work appointed Him on earth, went up again to God the Father. One class, the Ebionites, regarded Him as a being essentially human, though begotten of the Spirit, by whom He was anointed above measure; while another, the Docetae, regarded Him as a Divine Being seemingly bearing human form and united with the man Jesus. These views were finally rejected by the Catholic Church, because they conflicted with the Word of God which affirms the true Divinity of the Son of God, the true humanity of the Son of Man, and the true union of the two natures of God and man in One Person, Jesus Christ.
The Gnostics, who were the leaders in connection with such heretical views, are generally thought to date from the time of Simon Magus. He had been enrolled as a disciple of the Apostles, and, professing faith in Christ, was baptized by Peter. But he had joined the Christian Church for selfish ends, as Luke's statements show. Hymenaeus, Phygellus, and Hermogenes, referred to by Paul in his second letter to Timothy, are believed to have been Gnostics, and towards the close of the first century Cerinthus and Ebion extended the system.
Jesus is the personal name of our Lord. In ancient times names had often a meaning and importance which they do not carry now. "Name" means a word by which any person or thing is known, and names were originally given from some quality attribute inherent in the person or thing to which they were attached. Proper names among the Hebrews had a deeper meaning and a closer connection with character and condition than elsewhere. The care that marks the Scriptures in recording the origin of names of individuals and places, the frequent allusions to names as having a special relation to character or qualities, the solemnity with which a change of name is stated as marking an epoch in the history of individuals or nations, and the frequency with which names are associated with great events, with promises, threats, or prophecies, show the importance that was attached to them. This feature is most marked in the use by the Jews of the word "Name" in reference to God. The "Name of the Lord," or an equivalent expression, constantly occurs to denote God Himself. His Name is in Scripture identified with His character, marking His attributes and His nature as distinguished from all other beings. The Name, Jehovah, by which God revealed Himself to Moses was so closely identified by the Jews with the Divine Personality and Holiness that it was never pronounced by them.
In Old Testament times the Deliverer foretold as the object of faith and hope and love under the Gospel Dispensation was announced by a declaration of His name. "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Immediately before He appeared a messenger was sent from heaven with the Divine command, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." The name is thus not the ascription to Him of qualities evolved from our own conception of what He is, or of what God is in Him, but God's disclosure of His infinite love and of His purposes for man's salvation. In His Divine power and by His efficacious sacrifice He is Jesus, the Saviour. He does not save, as some who profess to be Christians hold, by the influence of His own example and teaching only, just as one man may be said to save another whom he persuades to abandon evil habits and form good ones. He is our Saviour because He died as a sacrifice for our sins. Had He not expiated our guilt by dying for us, His example, teaching, and sympathy would never have brought us salvation.
The name "Jesus" is a human name. In its Hebrew form Joshua, Jehoshua, Hosea it had been borne by others. We read of one Jesus in the New Testament and of many in the pages of Josephus. In this respect, as in other particulars, Jesus was "made like unto his brethren" and bore a human distinctive name. "Jesus" was accordingly the name given to Him at His circumcision, by which He was to be known in His family and among the people of Nazareth. During His ministry He was described as "Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee"; and the title affixed to His cross by Pilate was "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Yet, as if to make emphatic the truth that His humanity did not derogate from His Divine power and Godhead, the first Evangelist, who describes the angel's visit, quotes in immediate connection Isaiah's prophetic announcement, "They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD with us." In the name Jesus thus bestowed we have the announcement of Himself as a personal Saviour from sin, in its power and consequences. Of those who had borne it before Him some were raised up to deliver the people of their nation from suffering in time, but He came to be man's everlasting Saviour. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." It is important therefore to bear in mind that Jesus is a name not only given to Him by God, but a name itself Divine; not only the name by which, as that of a Mediator, we worship God, but the name under which, as that of God Himself, we worship Him. "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
In ancient times no such appellations as those now termed surnames were given to individuals. One name only was distinctive. Both among the Jews and among the Greeks this system of nomenclature prevailed, family names being unknown. It was different with the Romans, by many of whom more names than one were borne. In reading ancient Greek history, we find illustrious personages known by one name only, as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Solon. The same feature marks early Jewish history. Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Job were not known by any other names than these. Sometimes names were changed or modified in order to express some speciality of character or achievement—Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Hoshea to Joshua. In later times appellations descriptive of the work or office of individuals were attached to their original names, as in the cases of John the Baptist, of Matthew the Publican, and of our Lord Himself, Jesus the Christ. This latter practice prevailed in early English history, and famous kings appear bearing descriptive epithets in addition to their original single names—Alfred the Great, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror.
Christ is not a proper name but an official title. Although now often used to designate the person of the Lord Jesus, it was not so when He lived in the world. As John was the Baptist or Baptizer, Jesus was the Christ—the Anointed. The title is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah, and means the Anointed. It denotes that He who bore it was separated, consecrated, and invested with high office. These distinctions met in Jesus, rendering the title appropriate.
At the time of the birth of Jesus, the coming of a great deliverer was at once the desire and the expectation not of Jews only, but of many nations. Roman historians of that period tell us that a redeemer was to make his appearance from among the nation of Israel. This belief was no doubt spread abroad by Jewish exiles, who, scattered through many lands, carried with them the hopes and prophecies which had been given from time to time to their own people.
That the expected Messiah had come to the world bearing with Him from heaven a message of salvation was the cardinal doctrine of Apostolic preaching. To accept Jesus as the Christ was to accept Him as the Saviour and Deliverer. When Andrew found his brother Simon he said to him, "We have found the Messias." "Is not this the Christ?" was the appeal of the woman of Samaria to the people of her city; and the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Christ, was declared by our Lord to be a revelation not of flesh and blood, but of His Father in heaven. Not Apollos only, but Paul and the other inspired teachers also, set it before them as their appointed work, "to show by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ." To confess that Jesus was the Christ was an acknowledgment that in Him were vested all those attributes and qualities which the Old Testament Scriptures ascribed to Messiah, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Deliverer of whom the prophets testified, to whose coming all the holy men of old looked forward, whom prophets and kings desired to see, and of whom all Scripture bore witness. It was the acknowledgment by the common people that Jesus was Messiah that stirred the indignation of the Jewish rulers. They saw that, if this were conceded, all His claims must be held valid, and accordingly the Sanhedrim passed a resolution to the effect that, "if any man did confess that Jesus was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue."
The name "Christ" denotes the offices which Jesus executes as our Redeemer. Three classes were set apart by anointing—the Prophet, who made known the will of God; the Priest, who confessed sin and offered sacrifice for the people; and the King, who acted as their leader and commander. Jesus was consecrated for His work as our Redeemer by anointing, but not, so far as we know, with material oil. He who anointed Him was God the Father, and the oil that descended upon Him was the Holy Ghost, of whose influence oil was the symbol. "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." He fulfilled the office of a Prophet by revealing the Father, and making known the will of God for our salvation; of a Priest in the sacrifice of Himself which He offered up to God for us, and in the intercession which He makes on our behalf at His Father's right hand; of a King in the victory He won over man's enemies, and in the power He imparts to His people, by which they overcome evil in themselves and in the world. It was not until after He had finished His work that His followers so closely associated Him with the Messiahship as to speak of Him not as Jesus only, nor as Christ only, but as Jesus Christ. This twofold name occurs very rarely in the Gospels—once in Matthew, once in Mark, never in Luke; but in the Epistles it is the name by which He is designated and made known to the world. To believe in Jesus Christ is to accept Him in all His offices, and to take home the truth which John had in view when he penned his Gospel: "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
SECTION 4.—HIS ONLY SON
God is love. Love must have an object, and from eternity the Father was not alone. The only-begotten and well-beloved Son was with Him, dwelt in His bosom, and shared His glory. The Filiation or Sonship of our Lord follows the statement of His proper name and the declaration of His Messiahship. It is expressed in the designation, "Only Son," which is His divine name, peculiar to Himself, incommunicable to any other being. He is the Son of the Father, and is His only Son inasmuch as He alone partakes of His Divine nature, and in this nature is the Son. The Old Testament Scriptures foretold that Christ should be the Son of God. "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." Isaiah wrote of Him, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." The New Testament in various passages bears the same testimony. "In the beginning," says John, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"; and "the Word," he goes on to say, "became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,) full of grace and truth." The writer to the Hebrews makes a similar declaration: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person." It has been noted that Christ, in speaking to His disciples, never says our Father, but either My Father, or your Father, or both conjoined, never leaving it to be inferred that God is in the same sense His Father and our Father. It appears from various passages in the New Testament, that when He came the Jews identified Messiah with the Son of God, as when Nathanael exclaimed, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel"; and when Martha said, "I believe that thou art the Son of God, which should come into the world." He did not first become the Son of God when He took upon Him the nature of man. The Divine Sonship existed in the beginning before He was the child of Mary, the seed of the woman. He was the Son of God before the birth of Abraham: "before Abraham was I am." Though John the Baptist was older than Jesus, and preceded Him in His ministry, Jesus was yet preferred in honour before him, "for he was before him." "The Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." In the relation of the Son to the Father, there is a mystery which we cannot solve. "Who shall declare his generation?" Earthly figures fail to set forth Divine realities, and as we are dependent upon human emblems for the conceptions we form of heavenly things, we see through a glass darkly. But though we cannot fully understand the sense in which our Lord is the Son of God, we yet believe that He is so in a manner analogous to that in which we are our fathers' sons—possessing the same nature as His Father, and having that nature communicated to Him as the only-begotten Son. God has other sons. Angels are termed sons of God. Men are also His offspring, and believers are now the sons of God; but Jesus is God's son in a higher, special, and perfect sense.
That Jesus claimed to be in this sense the Son of God is clear from many incidents in His history. It was ostensibly on the ground that He declared Himself to be "equal with God" that He was arrested and condemned by the Jewish rulers. The high priest put the question to Him directly and solemnly, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." The reply was distinct and emphatic. "Jesus said, I am: Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." There is no resisting the meaning which these words convey. The Sonship they assert is very different from that which is implied when a mere man who fears God and keeps His commandments is said to be a son of God. It was a claim to the possession of Divine personality and power, and was so understood by His accusers. When Caiaphas heard the reply he accepted it in its full significance, tearing his clothes and exclaiming, "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death."
His saying that He was the Son of God was the "blasphemy" for which He was condemned. The horror, real or affected, and the rent robes of the high priest, the verdict of the court, and the contemptuous treatment to which Jesus was afterwards subjected, leave no room for doubting that He declared Himself to be the Son of God, having at His disposal the powers of heaven and earth.
SECTION 5—OUR LORD
The last title of the Second Person is expressive of His dominion. The name "Lord" is the translation of a Greek word, which signifies ruling or governing. Jesus Christ is not only a Lord, He rules by authority and in a sense peculiar to Himself, so that He is commonly spoken of in the New Testament as "the Lord": "Come, see the place where the Lord lay"; "They have taken the Lord out of the sepulchre"; "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you." In the time of Christ the title "Lord" had for Jews and Jewish Christians a special personal meaning. "The Lord" was in the Septuagint, as it is still in the Authorised English version of the Old Testament, the translation of "Jehovah." When, therefore, the Apostles used this title to designate their Master, there is reason to think that they did so in the full belief that He was one with the Father. This view is confirmed by Paul's statement. "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." As Lord, the government is upon His shoulders, His dominion is universal and His kingdom everlasting. This He claims for Himself "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"; "All things are delivered unto me of my Father"; "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
While Christ is the "Lord of all," the Creed yet sets forth the truth that there is a special sense in which He is the Lord of believers, "our Lord."
Scripture recognises the existence in the universe of two great armies, marshalled under their respective leaders—one under the rule of Jesus Christ, the other under His adversary the Devil, otherwise termed Satan, Apollyon, and the Old Serpent. These powers are in constant antagonism, and every man takes his place in the army of Christ or in that of Satan. Those opposed to the Lord are rebels who, except they repent, must share the doom of their leader in the place prepared for the devil and his angels; "for He must reign until He hath put all His enemies under His feet." He is their Lord for their overthrow and destruction; while to those who are "with Him,"—"the called, and chosen, and faithful,"—He is their Lord to secure for them victory and everlasting salvation. When we use the expression "our Lord," we declare that we renounce other masters; that we make no compromise with His enemies, and refuse to have "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness"; that, renouncing the Devil and his works, rejecting the vain pleasures, pomps, and glories of the world, and denying ourselves the gratification of sinful desires, we accept Christ as our leader, with the determination expressed by the prophet, "O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name." As the followers and subjects of an omnipotent, righteous King we shall strive to "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
It is noteworthy that a plural pronoun is used in this recognition of Christ as our Lord, while elsewhere throughout the Creed the confession of belief is personal, "I believe." The plural form here indicates that while in following Jesus we are separated from the world, we are gathered into the fellowship of the saints, and are members of the whole family in heaven and earth.
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Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
The Creed proceeds to declare belief in the doctrine of the Incarnation, which is thus set forth in the Shorter Catechism: "Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin."
Two Evangelists record the miraculous birth of Jesus. Mark and John do not refer to it, and their silence has led some opponents of Christianity to discredit the statements of Matthew and Luke. But while there is no direct account given by Mark or John of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, the fact of His Divine descent is implied in many portions of their Gospels. The words with which Mark opens his narrative clearly express it, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;" as does the statement he makes that at His baptism there came a voice from heaven saying, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." John is equally explicit in declaring his belief in the Divinity of Jesus. The opening words of his Gospel assert His Divine nature: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made."
It is evident, therefore, that each of the Evangelists believed in the Divine origin of Jesus, for they would not have used such language regarding one who in their opinion was a mere man, the son of Joseph the carpenter and of Mary his espoused wife. Matthew, who wrote for Jewish converts, shows how fully the Old Testament prophecy was accomplished that Christ should be born, not at Nazareth but at Bethlehem, and especially that Isaiah's prophecy, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD with us," was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. Luke, who is termed by Paul "the beloved physician," gives the fullest account of the Nativity. His writings are characterised by minuteness of detail and historical accuracy. Recent investigations have shown that, even in regard to matters about which he was long thought to have been mistaken, Luke's statements are strictly correct.
The story of the miraculous conception would not, without the strongest corroborative evidence, have commended itself to a man of his acumen and his calling. A physician by profession, the companion of Apostles, and possessing singular penetration and sagacity, he tells us that he had received the facts he narrates from eye witnesses and competent authorities. For information as to the events connected with the birth of her Son, Luke would naturally have recourse to Mary. There is evidence in his Gospel that he had intimate knowledge of her private thoughts and actions. Lange, in his Life of Jesus, finds in the specialties of the narrative evidence of a woman's diction. Be this as it may, the minuteness of detail, the message of the angel Gabriel, the preservation of the sacred songs, and of the thoughts and words of the Virgin, justify the belief that Luke received his information from herself. When we find him assuring his friend Theophilus that he himself had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, the inference is natural that his information was obtained from the most trustworthy sources. There is no reason to doubt that Mary was associated with the Apostles of her Son, and had opportunities of imparting information regarding Him which no other could supply Luke's account corresponds with that of John, to whose care Jesus from the Cross committed His mother, and who from that time "took her unto his own home."
It does not necessarily follow, even if the information was supplied by Mary, that it is therefore to be accepted as true. Human witnesses are not infallible or invariably honest, and it is conceivable that Mary may have been a dreamer or a deceiver. This article of the Creed, contradicting as it does the ordinary course of nature, stands in need of more than a historic statement. Jesus admitted that if His claims had been supported by no other evidence than His own word, the Jews would have had excuse for hesitating to accept Him. "If," said He, "I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true," and therefore He appealed to the testimony borne to His Messiahship by His Father, by John the Baptist, by His miracles, and by His life. All the evidence by which the Divine nature and mission of Jesus were accredited goes to support the account of His super natural birth.
That Jesus was born of Mary is a plain historic truth to which all must accord belief. "Yes," said Renan, who did not regard Christ as the Son of God, "this story of Jesus is no fable, but a true history Christ really lived." The miraculous birth was a fulfilment of prophecy. When the angel told Mary that the child to be born of her would be the Son of God, he cited Isaiah's prophecy for the confirmation of her faith, and indeed the same truth had been foreshadowed when the promise was given to Eve that her seed should bruise the head of the serpent. The first Adam had no human father. He was the Son of God. It was therefore fitting that the second Adam should resemble the first in this respect, being in a sense infinitely higher than our first father the Son of God, His only Son. It was fitting too that He who was to assume the nature, not of any branch of the human family but of universal man, should be conceived by the Holy Ghost. Other faiths than Christianity are limited in their adaptation to races. The religion of Mahomet is not practicable save in Eastern latitudes. The Koran enjoins as duties practices that cannot be carried out in Western countries. The faiths of Brahma and Buddha find followers only under Eastern skies, and even Judaism required observances which could be rendered at Jerusalem only. All faiths but Christianity are narrowed down by the nationalities of their founders or adherents. It is otherwise with the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. He came from God with a mission and a message for the world. In comparison with the severe requirements of the law and the grievous exactions of religions devised by men, His "yoke is easy and His burden is light." With Him there is "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free." With Him there are no distinctions of sect, or country, or caste. "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him."
In being born, Jesus assumed the nature of humanity, and, in so doing, more than restored to man the likeness to God which our first parents lost, for themselves and their descendants, through the Fall. He thereby made it possible for God to dwell with man, and for man to rise into communion with God. Sin had effaced the Divine image, and no other than the Son of God could give back to men the power to reflect in their own lives the character of God. His possession of the human nature gives us confidence in approaching Him, by assuring us of His brotherhood and sympathy; while His possession of the Divine nature assures us that He can make His brotherhood and sympathy effectual.
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Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried
SECTION 1.—SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE
The preceding articles of the Creed appeal to faith. They so far transcend reason that they can be apprehended only when reason is sustained by faith. This article, which affirms that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried," is a simple historical statement. Pilate is a historic person, the details of whose life are recorded, not in the Gospels only, but in secular history. Josephus records several incidents in the life of Pilate which are strikingly in accordance with his character as set forth in the Gospels. Tacitus, a Roman historian, who wrote his Annals soon after the crucifixion of Jesus, relates that, while Pilate was governor of Judaea, Jesus Christ was put to death. The testimony of the Gospels and the statement of the Creed are thus confirmed by the Roman and the Jewish historians. But, indeed, the event itself is not the subject of controversy. It is the conclusions drawn from it by the followers of Christ that are disputed. "Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness," still raises opposition and kindles hostility.
The name of Pilate is inserted not with the view of branding him with infamy, but in order to fix the date of the crucifixion of Jesus. It is the only intimation of the time of His death that the Creed contains. It states that He was born, and that His mother was the Virgin Mary, and beyond this reference to Pilate there is no intimation as to the time of the nativity or the death. Bishop Pearson writes:—"As the Son of God, by His deliberate counsel, was sent into the world to die in the fulness of time, so it concerns the Church to know the time in which He died. And because the ancient custom of the world was to make computations by the governors, and refer their historical relations to the respective times of their government, therefore, that we might be properly assured of the actions of our Saviour which He did, and of His sufferings,—that is the actions which others did to Him,—the present governor is named in that form of speech which is proper to such historical or chronological narrations when we affirm that He suffered under Pontius Pilate." From stating the birth of Christ, the Creed passes by what at first sight may seem an abrupt transition to His suffering, crucifixion, and death. There is no reference to His life or works, though these differed so widely from those of ordinary men. The reason seems to be that the end for which He came into the world was to suffer and die. Although He spake as never man spake, and did the works no other man did, it was not in the first place to teach or to work miracles that He emptied Himself of His glory and came to earth, but in order to suffer and die in the room and stead of sinners. Others had been prophets and teachers, others had worked miracles, others had done good in their day and generation, but none save Jesus had come in his own name or wielded power so marvellous as His. No one could share with Him the work of suffering and dying for sinners. He was lifted up that He might draw all men unto Him. "He suffered the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." On the cross He tasted death for every man, and made a sacrificial atonement for the sins of the world. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." His dying was the leading thought and purpose of His life. Those who were with Him fixed their eyes on His greatness as manifested in His wisdom and miracles, and looked for His setting up a kingdom of this world, but He Himself from the very beginning knew that the path to be traversed by Him was one of agony and death. He was straitened until this baptism of suffering should be accomplished. At His first Passover He had intimated that, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man should be lifted up. He used this expression "lifted up" three times, and an Evangelist gives the explanation: "This he said, signifying what death he should die." Again and again He told the disciples that He had come to give His life a ransom for many, that He was to be betrayed and killed, that as the Good Shepherd He would give His life for the sheep. He intimated that His death was in accordance with the deliberate counsel and foreknowledge of His Father, and with His own free and full assent: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life." And when betrayal and apprehension brought His ministry to a close, He would allow no sword to be drawn in His defence, but was brought as a "lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
The views which the Jews entertained with regard to the triumphant progress of Messiah did not accord with the statements of their prophets. The sacred writers who foretold His coming pointed indeed to victory as the ultimate issue of His mission, but they also clearly associated His life with conflict and suffering. From the first intimation of a Deliverer, which spoke of a heel bruised by man's malignant adversary, there was indicated in every type and prophecy the truth that Messiah was to be "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," whose triumph was to be achieved through suffering. The expectation current among the Jews that deliverance would be wrought by Messiah, without humiliation or suffering, showed that they misinterpreted the messages of the prophets. Familiar with the letter, they failed to grasp the spirit of the prophetical writings. Jesus laid this ignorance to their charge when He said to them, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures"; and He upbraided the two disciples on the way to Emmaus because they had failed to discover that their Redeemer's glory was to be won through conflict: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?"
The suffering which Jesus endured was both bodily and spiritual. Persecution followed Him as a babe: Herod sought to slay Him, and Joseph and Mary had to flee into Egypt. He was "despised and rejected" by His countrymen. His claims were refused by His kinsmen. He "endured the contradiction of sinners." He "took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." He hungered and thirsted and was weary; He was spit upon, buffeted, and scourged. The cross on which He was to suffer was laid upon His shoulders, till His exhausted frame broke down; and on Calvary a thorny crown was set upon His brow, and the cruel nails pierced His hands and His feet. But the sorrow within His soul was worse to bear than bodily buffering. Travail of soul was the consummation of His afflictions, and while we do not read of a groan wrung from Him by bodily torture, soul-trouble led Him to ask His Father with "strong crying and tears," as His frame was agonized and His sweat was like drops of blood—"If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." As man's Saviour Jesus was made perfect through suffering. "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." The world is full of suffering, and He alone can understand and sympathise with it who has experienced it. It is the knowledge that their Divine Saviour is their Brother-man that gives to believing sufferers boldness and confidence as they draw nigh to the throne of grace.
SECTION 2.—WAS CRUCIFIED
Prophecy in the sense of prediction is a very interesting and important branch of Christian evidence. Old Testament prophets foretold minute events in the history of the Lord Jesus Christ, such as His lineal descent, the place and time of His birth, its miraculous character, His death, His burial, His three days' sojourn in the sepulchre, the casting of lots for His raiment, the piercing of His hands and feet, His last exclamation, His resurrection and ascension. Whatever view may be taken as to the dates of the various books of Scripture, it must be admitted that the whole body of the Old Testament was in circulation among the Jews hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. There can be no doubt that these prophecies were separated by great distance in time from the events predicted. Even the Septuagint Version, which is a Greek translation from the original Hebrew Scriptures, existed at Alexandria about two hundred years before His advent.
One of the most striking features of Old Testament prediction is its bearing upon the closing scenes of Christ's history. In its types as well as in its prophecies His death was foreshadowed, and the humiliating and ignominious treatment to which He was subjected minutely described. The predictions involved events that appeared contradictory and paradoxical until their fulfilment furnished the key. He Himself told the disciples again and again that He should be crucified. This form of execution was a Roman punishment reserved for slaves and the vilest criminals; and the fact that Jesus was subjected to it depended on a combination of events which no mere human sagacity could have foreseen. It required that, though he should be apprehended, accused, tried, and found guilty by Jews, His death-sentence should be inflicted by Gentiles; that the Roman governor of Judaea should, against his better judgment, surrender to the clamorous cry of a mob who demanded that the prisoner should be crucified. It required that the betrayal and condemnation of Jesus should take place during the Passover week, when it was unlawful for the Jews to put any man to death. The excuse of the Jewish rulers, that they could not inflict death, did not mean that this power had been withdrawn from them, but that it was against their law to exercise it then. Had the season been different, had the Jews themselves carried out the sentence of death, it would have been accomplished not by crucifixion, but by stoning. Such an execution would not have fulfilled prophecy or have been associated with the ignominy that marked the Roman death-penalty. Thus the Scripture was fulfilled in Him, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." There is but one explanation that meets these facts, which is that they were directed by the counsel and foreknowledge of God, and that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The death of Jesus by crucifixion fulfilled in a wonderful manner the types and figures of the Old Testament. He applied the type of the brazen serpent to His death on the cross on which He was to be lifted up, and from which He was to exercise His healing power on those whom sin had bitten. The surrender of Isaac by Abraham, when he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, prefigured the unspeakable gift by the Father, who spared not His own Son, and the self-surrender of the Son, who gave Himself for us. As Isaac went forth bearing the wood on which he was to be offered, he was a type of Him who went forth from Jerusalem to Calvary bearing His cross. Had His sentence been any other than death by crucifixion, He would not have come under the doom which required that a prisoner should bear his cross. The Paschal Lamb, of which not a bone was to be broken, prefigured the Antitype in His exemption from the treatment to which the two thieves crucified with Him were subjected. In crucifixion He was numbered with the transgressors and associated with accursed criminals, and so prophecy received fulfilment.
It is a standing testimony at once to the reality of Christ's suffering, and to the power which He exercises over men's minds and consciences, that from being associated with shame and scorn, the sign of the cross has been elevated to the highest place of honour and dignity. Through his reverence for Jesus, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, abolished crucifixion. It is recognised that through Christ's death upon the cross man obtains all that makes life precious. Instead of being regarded with scorn, a cross is the coveted emblem now of valour and exalted achievement. The instrument wherewith capital punishment was inflicted on abandoned criminals has come to be an ornament of monarchs. Such a change is to be explained only by the fact that it is the sign of Christ's redeeming sacrifice, and that to multitudes who glory in the Cross, He who suffered the painful death on Calvary is the "power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation."
The death of Jesus Christ was the result of His being crucified. When He died, the great sacrifice for the sins of the world was accomplished. Death was necessary for the completion of His work, and this was the fact most prominent in Old Testament type and prophecy. "Without shedding of blood is no remission," and it was to His death as the procuring cause of salvation that the Apostles directed their converts. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." It was necessary that the lamb which formed the chief part of the Passover meal should be slain, and so Messiah was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and when John saw Him in vision it was as a Lamb that had been slain. It is the death of Jesus that we commemorate in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The bread represents His body "broken for us"; the wine, His blood which was "shed for many for the remission of sins." "We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son." "We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Statements such as these fail to convey any meaning if Christ did not really die on the cross, or if salvation comes to us in any other way than through His death as an atoning sacrifice. Of the reality of the death there is abundant evidence. It is recorded that, after six hours of suffering on the cross, Jesus gave up the ghost. The soldiers did not break His legs as they did in the case of the malefactors, because they saw and pronounced Him dead already; but one of them inflicted a spear-wound with a force that would have caused death had any life remained. The result was an outflow of blood and water, of itself sufficient evidence that death had done its work upon the Sufferer. Before Pilate permitted the body of Jesus to be delivered to Joseph, he was careful to make sure, by questioning the centurion in charge, that the wonderful prisoner who had caused him so great anxiety was dead. Thus Messiah was cut off, but not for Himself. He stood in the room and stead of sinners, and, though Himself without sin, He tasted death for every man. "He was delivered for our offences." "The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." His death was not the result of unavoidable circumstances, for it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; and His sacrifice was voluntary, for He said, "I lay down my life ... no man taketh it from me." The penalty of death which He endured did not pertain to Him but to those for whom He died. "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." We are "justified by his blood." "God hath set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God ... that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
In the statement that Jesus Christ "was dead," the Creed affirms the reality of Christ's death in opposition to certain early heretics, the Docetae, who said that His death was not real but only apparent. A similar view has been adopted by some modern writers, who assert that what the witnesses of the crucifixion saw was not death but a swoon, from which, through the ministry of His disciples, Jesus was restored after He had been taken down from the cross. It is urged in support of this view that a crucified criminal did not usually die as Jesus is said to have died, six hours after He was crucified, but lingered on for days, before being relieved from his sufferings by death. Jesus' legs were not broken by the soldiers, because they believed Him to be dead, but—say those who deny the reality of the death—the soldiers were mistaken, the seeming lifelessness was not real, and recovery soon followed, so complete that He was able to appear in public on the third day.