association, whether moral, political, or religious, which stands for anything, will in some way or other make formal declarations of what they hold."

While the revision of creeds may be depreciated, it is nothing more than is to be expected. All creeds are human, and therefore subject to change. "A wider range of Christian experience, a fuller flood of light bursting from the inexhaustible Scriptures, or marked revolutions in human thought, may require a restatement or modification of certain doctrines." Dr. Schaff, who is authority on creeds, says that "creeds are the milestones which mark the stages of development in the knowledge of revealed truth. Every creed is the result of preceding theological controversy." The revision of creeds is not peculiar to any age. There is scarcely a creed in Christendom which has not been revised. The so-called Apostles' Creed was revised a number of times, and was not completed till the fifth century. The Nicene Creed of 325 was revised in 381, and again two centuries later. The Roman Church revises her creed, not by a restatement of doctrines, but by additions. The Augsburg Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, the Westminster Confession, and many others have been revised. Protestants agree that creeds and confessions are fallible, and therefore admit of change without doing any violence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. They hold and teach that infallibility belongs to the Word of God alone. Creeds and confessions are only approximate statements of revealed truths.

There is no standard or rule governing the length of creeds and confessions. They may contain only the essentials of salvation, or they may cover a large field of Christian doctrine. One thing is worthy of special note, that all the creeds and confessions of Christendom, whether long or short, very nearly agree on all the cardinal doctrines of the Bible. The difference, whether only apparent or real, is in the detail or mode of statement. This shows "Christianity to be unchanging in


substance, while in forms of thought and expression it is adaptable to every age, and to every variety of culture." 'Creeds and confessions," says Dr. Hodge, "have been found necessary in all ages and branches of the church, and when not abused have been useful for the following purposes: first, to mark, disseminate, and preserve the attainments made in the knowledge of Christian truth by any branch of the church in any crisis of its development; second, to discriminate the truth from the glosses of false teachers, and to present it in its integrity and due proportions; third, to act as the basis of ecclesiastical fellowship among those so nearly agreed as to be able to labor together in harmony; fourth, to be used as instruments in the great work of popular instruction.”

To show the unity in Christian doctrine on all points which may be considered essential to salvation, it will be interesting and profitable to compare the Apostles' Creed completed in the fifth century, and the Nicene Creed of 381, with the principal creeds of the orthodox Churches of the present time.


I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.


I believe in one God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the

right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

A comparison of these creeds with the orthodox creeds since the Reformation will show a substantial agreement in all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Denominations or sects which oppose written creeds and confessions are not as nearly agreed on fundamental doctrines as those which adopt them; neither are they any more in harmony with each other. The sects which reject and denounce written creeds and confessions are as tenacious of their particular views as those which have adopted them, and they are as slow to fellowship those who differ from them as those who have written creeds and confessions. Every sect has a creed, either written or oral. The only question then is, whether or not a sect has a right to commit its articles of faith to writing. The superiority of written over unwritten law must appear to the mind of every thoughtful man. Creeds are formed and adopted, not as a substitute for the Scriptures, but as a declaration of what the Scriptures are believed to teach.




THE organization of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ was commenced by Philip William Otterbein, in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, in A.D. 1774; but the organization was not completed until the year 1800. As it was not the purpose of Mr. Otterbein and those immediately associated with him to organize a new and distinct Church, there was no confession of faith formally adopted until 1815. Some articles of faith were drawn up by Mr. Otterbein for the benefit of his congregation in Baltimore, and were in common use throughout the Church, but never formally adopted as the creed of the Church. It will be interesting to insert those articles of faith which were in use prior to A.D. 1815.

In the name of God we confess before all men, that we believe in the only true God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that these three are one; the Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Holy Ghost equal in essence with both; that this God created heaven and earth and all that in them is, visible as well as invisible, and sustains, governs, protects, and supports the same.

We believe in Jesus Christ; that he is very God and man, Savior and Redeemer of the whole world; that all men through him may be saved if they will; that this Jesus suffered for us; that he died and was buried, rose on the third day, ascended into heaven, and that he will come again, at the last day, to judge the living and the dead.

We believe in the Holy Ghost, that he proceeds from the Father and the Son; that we through him must be sanctified and receive faith, thereby being cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

We believe that the Bible is the Word of God; that it contains the true way to our salvation; that every true Christian is bound to acknowledge and receive it with the influence of the Spirit of God, as his only rule and guide; and that without repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, and following after Jesus Christ, no one can be a true Christian.

We believe that the doctrine which the Holy Scriptures contain, namely, the fall in Adam and salvation through Jesus Christ, shall be preached and proclaimed throughout the whole world.

We recommend that the outward signs and ordinances, namely, baptism and the remembrance of the Lord in the distribution of the bread and wine, be observed; also the washing of feet, when the same is desired.

In 1815 the first General Conference of the Church convened near Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. At this Conference a discipline was formulated and adopted, and the articles of faith that had been in use in the Church prior to that time were revised, adopted, and ordered to be printed in the Discipline. Up to this time the Church had not had any rules or articles of faith printed.

The Confession of Faith, as adopted at this first General Conference, was subsequently revised at several General Conferences. The fathers in the Church were progressive and aggressive. As the light increased, and the exigencies of the times demanded, they amended their rules and revised the articles of faith. They made no material change in doctrine, but in forms of language and additions.

The last change was made in 1857, and that of only one word; but it materially changed the sense of the article in which the change was made. The words "in this respect" were changed to read "in these respects." As they stood they referred only to the washing of feet, but as changed, they included the ordinance and subjects of baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the manner of observing them. That it may be better understood I will insert the article in which the change was made.

We believe that the ordinances, viz., baptism and the remembrance of the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, are to be in use and practiced by all Christian societies; and that it is incumbent on all the children of God, particularly, to practice them; but the manner in which ought always to be left to the judgment and understanding of every individual. Also the example of washing feet is left to the judgment of every one, to practice or not; but it is not becoming for any of our preachers or members to traduce any of his brethren whose judgment and understanding in these respects are different from his own, either in public or private. Whosoever shall make himself guilty

« VorigeDoorgaan »