Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

142 66 After

view of the last clauses.

own particular society; but extend it to that large body, of which Christ is the head, and all churches are portions in particular. The “ communion of saints” was a still later addition; and its introduc- Communion tion implies, that the preceding clause had become obscure, inasmuch of Saints. as it is manifestly an explanation of it. The communion of saints, or Christians, is that which constitutes the essentials of a church; and consists in those acts which are the means of grace, the outward forms through which the Holy Ghost vouchsafes his operations.

Tertullian is the earliest who makes mention of an article on the Tertullian's Church, and this is the view under which he represents it: the declaration of faith has been made, and the pledge of salvation received in the name of the Trinity, there follows, he observes,

necessarily, a mention of the Church; forasmuch, as where the three are, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, there is the Church; which is their body.” Augustin has the same remark, “ The right arrangement of the articles of confession required, that to the Trinity should be annexed the Church, as the house to its tenant, to a God his temple, the State to its founder."143

The clause on the forgiveness of sins has by some been applied Forgiveness to errors which arose in the second century, the errors of the Montanists and Novatians. 144 But there can be no doubt that it was made an article of belief among the earliest Christians.146 Without searching far into the probable need for such an article, it may be sufficient to observe, that remission of sins formed not only one of the most prominent points of the good tidings which the Gospel preachers announced, but one of the most objectionable. 6. Who is Luke vii. 49. he that forgiveth sins also ?” expresses a scruple felt in common by Jew and Gentile. It was, in truth, no accidental bias originating in the heated imagination of a theorist, which caused the doctrine to be unacceptable, and likely to be got rid of. The converted Pharisee, who trusted in his righteousness, and the Gentile convert, with his habitual view of unlimited human merit, capable of raising him to heaven, would naturally require some provision against the continual revival of feelings subversive of the true Christian spirit, -so contrary to the humiliating truth, that all, even the best, require “the forgiveness of sins.' The same may be observed of “ the resurrection of the body,” or “the flesh;” which, although Resurrecuseful as a fence against the Gnostic follies already alluded to, Body. must, we may conjecture, have been needed from the ancient prejudice of the anti-Christian world, and is noticed by the earliest writers. The concluding words, “the life everlasting," seem everlasting.

of Sins.

Life

142 De Baptismo.
143 Enchir. ad Laurentium, C. 15.

generally have been adopted in the pre-
ceding remarks.

145 ft appears from Cyprian, that it was
in the Creed which the Novatians them-
selves used. Cyp. Ep. 69, al. 76, ad Mag-
num. See Bingham's Eccl. Antiq. Book
X. Chap. IV. Sec. 4.

144 This is the view of the learned and ingenious author of "The Critical History of the Apostles' Creed,” whose views

29.

separate

properly to belong to the foregoing, and to form with it one asser

tion; the foundation of which may be seen in our Saviour's declaraJohn v. 28, tion, that “the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the

graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done

evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Origin of If this view of the Apostles' Creed be correct, it is nothing improCreeds for bable, that with the exception of the few clauses specified in the Churenes

. foregoing review of it, Creeds, in substance the same, were used

during the apostolic age. At all events, little doubt can be entertained, that such was the case in the age immediately succeeding. We say Creeds, because the ancient Creeds corresponded to what in modern Churches are called the Articles of Religion. This, being so, however intimate the union may be among orthodox Churches, the particular circumstances of each may require a different formula of belief, as well as of conformity; even as two confederate monarchies, or democracies, would not require precisely the same statutes and forms of administration. And so, although the Apostles' Creed be the substance of the earliest Creeds, and the precise language to a certain extent, yet there may have been many Creeds from the first; shaped by each Church with reference to its peculiar dangers of faith from without, or the prejudices of its own members within. Thus, as far back as we can trace the history of the early Creeds, that of Jerusalem was always distinct from that of Cæsarea or Antioch, and all these, again, from those of Alexandria or of Rome; and this, during the period of harmony between these Churches.

The gradual infringement on the independent character of each on the inde- separate Church, until it was extinguished by the papal usurpation, pendence of is a subject well worthy of more detailed discussion than is compa

tible with the limits of this inquiry. Among the primitive Churches, each formed its own Creed, its own Liturgy, and regulated its own ceremonies and discipline. The first encroachment took its rise from an apparent convenience. When the ruling powers of the world were generally Christians, each kingdom was made to have the same Liturgy, &c. for all its Churches. To give an instance: when Spain and Gallia Narbonensis became one distinct kingdom, it was decreed by a Council, that there should be exact uniformity through all the Churches of these provinces.146 The same principle, which thus produced an exact conformity among all the Churches of the same nation, became the ground of enforcing it, at length, on all the Churches of the empire. The first change was in the boundary line of a Church, which was made political instead of ecclesiastical. Men's minds being familiarized to this, and Churches being con

146 “ When Churches became subject closely in rituals and circumstantials of to one political head, and national Divine worship, as well as faith and Churches arose from that distinction; substantials." - Bingham's Eccl. Antiq. then it was thought convenient by all the Book XVI. C. I. Sec. 13. bishops of such a nation, to unite more

First en croachment

separate Churches.

of Rome assumes the

Clement.

Articles.

sidered as national bodies, it was no very revolting step which was taken by the Romish Church, when it made itself the metropolitan The Church of national Churches ; and gradually claimed that conformity to its decrees, and that obedience to its laws, which the metropolitan title of MeChurch of every nation had acquired a right to expect from all of National Churches within the political pale of its jurisdiction. It was this Churches. miscalled Christian unity which the Reformation violated; and it is against such a Catholic Church, that all Protestants are accused of being guilty of heresy and schism.

The custom of forming a code of rules for ceremonial conformity, was of later date than Creeds. The oldest are the Apostolical Canons, Apostolical and the Constitutions of Clement, as they are called, although written Constituconfessedly long after the death of that bishop. The date of both tions of these must be assigned, even on the view most favourable to their antiquity, to a period much later than that over which the present inquiry extends; nevertheless, some use has been made of them, as records of an order of things, which, if then recorded, must have been established in part, some time before any such code of rules respecting it could have been framed.

The Creeds were not only taught to the catechumens, but were Advantages publicly read in the churches; a custom which has become now frequent almost impracticable. The Articles of the Church of England form promulgatoo bulky a symbolum to be read, as might be desirable, at stated Church times, in the congregation, and as part of the service. We hear them read in Church only when a clergyman reads himself in, as it is called, to a benefice. It is to be wished, however, that the members of the Church could be reminded more frequently and habitually of its peculiar Articles. The subject is well worthy of the consideration of those in authority. A few Articles at a time might be read without too much prolonging the service, although the reading of the whole at once right prove tedious and useless. The main object of such a form is, that it be used “as a sign upon the hand, and as frontlets between the eyes,” that the Lord's law may “ be in our heart;” and it should not be kept merely for reference and appeal. This is the purpose of Scripture, not of the Articles. One substitute, doubtless, has been provided, in commanding the three Creeds to be read publicly; and, accordingly, in order to give these the sanction and authority of our Church, they are inserted in our Articles, although the doctrines contained in them are elsewhere expressed in the Articles themselves.197 Still, this only partially effects the purpose which would be gained by continual promulgation of the Articles.

To return to the primitive Church. It was not only careful to Moral preserve itself, by thus providing against errors of faith, but also by pinip

Discipline taking cognizance of all immorality or indecorum, which would have Primitive

147 In the first five Articles, namely, which are obviously framed on the basis of the Creeds sanctioned afterwards in Art. VIII.

are

endangered the wellbeing of the community,—endangered it, either by defeating the practical results of the faith on Christians, or by exposing the Church to the scorn and reprehension of those without, whom it was a sacred duty to conciliate by every honest endeavour. In this spirit, Ignatius writes to the Trallians,148 Do not let a few unthinking ones among you give occasion to the Gentiles for blaspheming the word and the dispensation of it.”. Precedents for the application of St. Paul's rule, of being "all things to all men, furnished abundantly by the apostolic Church, and especially that portion of it which was immediately superintended by the great Gentile apostle. Even in the partial record which is left us, there is no lack of such precedents. The unobtrusive and cautious demeanour of the Church, in every place, may be pointed out as the visible means whereby Providence sheltered it from the ready spirit of persecution in Jew and Gentile; and the testimony of Pliny, when that spirit was awakened, fully proves how little the Church had incurred it by any imprudence or indiscreet regulations.149

But, it was not merely the decorous and appropriate demeanour of Christians, which required the guardian care of their constituted guides; their morals, even more than their manners, came under the cognizance of ecclesiastical government; and the exercise of ecclesiastical control here was peculiarly difficult and delicate. It was so on this account: moral offences are, for different reasons, proper objects of punishment to the Christian community considered as a Church, and to the same community considered as a State. With us, accordingly, who have lodged all power in the State, the former view is nearly lost, and punishment is only directed against immorality as a civil crime. But, at the period which we are now considering, each Christian society, bearing all the weight of responsibility on its own shoulders, and not receiving any support from the several civil authorities, felt itself bound to take cognizance of immorality, which, accordingly, became an ecclesiastical offence. In many instances the same act would be both a civil and also an ecclesiastical crime; and this circumstance has had greater influence on the character of the Church's authority than Christians are commonly sensible of. It has occasioned a natural disposition in the Church, from its first patronage by the first Christian emperor, to withdraw its exercise of authority in those matters which come under the cognizance both of Church and State; until all moral ecclesiastical discipline, as such, has been gradually superseded. Theft, for instance, is a crime against the community considered as a civil body, and also against the same community considered as a Church. Now, when Church and State have become not only composed of the same members, but subject to the same executive control, it seems absurd, for the same offenders to be brought twice to the same tribunal, to be punished separately for the same act, although that act be really a twofold offence. With the early Christians, however, this was quite necessary; and theft, frauds of every kind, assaults, and all immorality, in short, which was subject to civil penalties, were brought under the cognizance of the Church, and tried without reference to the further punishment which might await the offender from the magistrate. It would be rather beyond the present purpose, to enter into the question of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of Church-discipline as it now stands, and as it must then have operated. One feature of difference, however, cannot fail to force itself on our observation. Whilst acts of immorality are generally civil as well as ecclesiastical offences, so that the offender against the Church seldom escapes punishment, (although it may not be the appropriate punishment,) and others are thereby deterred; still, the same act may be an offence of much greater magnitude in one point of view than in another. The distinction, e.g. which the law makes between this and that description of fraud, might not be the same as that which we should make according to ecclesiastical views; although the distinction be clearly just in the former case. But moreover, some acts of immorality, some of the most serious, do not fall under the cognizance of the civil magistrate at all; for instance, adultery, fornication, neglect of filial duty, and the like. When, therefore, the Church ceases to distinguish ecclesiastical from civil offences in moral conduct, some, of no unimportant character, escape all penalty and censure; and the ecclesiastical statutes become obsolete. Hence the Church is forced, in these cases, to depend on the influence of public feeling, to substitute that punishment, for which, in other cases, it depends on the civil powers. At the period on which we are treating, all this was impossible; the Church had no resources from without, and thus, although its power was more circumscribed, its jurisdiction was more comprehensive.

Immorality an Ecclesiastical as well as a Civil crime.

148 Chap. viii. In another Epistle of selves employed by God; your lives, the
the same Father, (ad Ephes. C. X.) there form of language in which He addresses
is a similar passage, and rather an elo- them. Be mild when they are angry,
quent one, which may, indeed, be applied humble when they are haughty; to their
to the prudence and expediency of good blasphemy oppose prayer unceasing, to
morals, as well as of discreet behaviour. their inconsistency, a stedfast adherence
“Give them (unbelievers) the chance of to your faith,” &c.
believing through you. Consider your-

149 Ep. ad Traj.

It had, as has been formerly pointed out, one inherent right, Power of that of exclusion, in all its shades and gradations; which, skilfully managed, became no inefficient system of punishment. Were it likely to have been otherwise, indeed, Christ's kingdom would not have been limited to the use of it; nor would the apostles, in illustrating by their example the principles of our spiritual government, have been so cautious not to venture beyond it. By means of this punishment the primitive Church enforced obedience to its forms of faith, its measures of prudent decorum, and its requisites of moral conduct, as far as moral conduct was necessary to constitute an appropriate evidence of sincerity.

Of the character of this punishment, as it appears in the aposto

exclusion,

« VorigeDoorgaan »