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The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 38687

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Only three Doctrines can be disputed.

(A.) The Doctrine of the Trinity.

In addition to belief in God the Father, the New Testament teaches-

(1.) The Divinity of Christ.

(2.) The Divinity of the Holy Spirit; so there are

(3.) Three Divine Persons and yet but One God.

(B.) The Final State of the Wicked.

The only alternatives are:

(1.) Their endless misery: very strong texts in favour of this; its difficulties considered.

(2.) Their endless happiness: most improbable.

(3.) Their destruction: more likely than the last, but still improbable. On the whole the statement of the Creed seems fully justified.

(C.) The Importance of a True Belief.

This is strongly insisted on in the warning clauses of the Athanasian Creed.

(1.) Their meaning.

(2.) Their truthfulness: they merely repeat similar warnings in the New Testament.

(3.) The objection as to dogmatism.

We have now reached the last stage in our inquiry. We have shown in the previous chapters that there is very strong evidence in favour of what may be called in a general sense, Christianity or the Christian Religion-i.e., the Religion founded by Christ and taught in the New Testament. We have, lastly, to inquire, is this Religion correctly summarised in the doctrines and statements of the Three Creeds? And the only doctrines that can be disputed, are found in the Athanasian Creed, and refer to the Trinity; the Final State of the Wicked; and the importance of a True Belief: each of which we will examine in turn.

(A.) The Doctrine of the Trinity.

Now, although there are no statements in the New Testament identical with those in the Creed, yet the latter are merely logical deductions from the former. For the New Testament asserts that, besides God the Father, there are two other Divine Persons, Christ and the Holy Spirit, and yet but one God.

(1.) The Divinity of Christ.

This has already been discussed in Chapter XXI., where we showed that Christ claimed to be not only Superhuman, but Divine; and that this is how His contemporaries, both friends and foes, understood Him. The doctrine is also asserted by St. Paul, as well as by St. John, who in the opening verse of his Gospel, states it very concisely, saying that the Word (i.e., Christ) was with God, implying a distinction of Persons, and was God, implying a unity of Nature; which is the exact doctrine of the Creed.

(2.) The Divinity of the Holy Spirit.

This also follows at once from the New Testament. For the Holy Spirit is called by Divine names, such as God and Lord; He is given Divine attributes, such as Eternity and Omniscience; and He is identified with Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, of the Old Testament.[463]

[463] Acts 5. 3, 4; 2 Cor. 3. 17; Heb. 9. 14; 1 Cor. 2. 10; Acts 28. 25; Isa. 6. 5-10.

And yet, He is a distinct Person: for, to quote a decisive text,[464] Christ prays the Father to send His disciples another Comforter when He goes away; thus showing that the Holy Spirit is a different Person, both from the Father and the Son. And elsewhere we are told that the Spirit makes intercession for us, which again shows that He must be a different Person from the Father, with Whom He intercedes.[465] While in another passage blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is said to be the worst of all sins;[466] which shows both that He is a Person, or He could not be blasphemed; and that He is God, or blasphemy against God would be a greater sin.

[464] John 14. 16, 26; 15. 26.

[465] Rom. 8. 26.

[466] Matt. 12. 31, 32; Mark 3. 28, 29.

No doubt the actual word Person is not applied to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, just as it is not applied to either the Father or the Son, but it cannot be thought inappropriate, provided it is not taken in a literal, or human sense. For the relations between Them closely resemble those between human persons, as They love one another, speak to one another, and use the personal pronouns I, Thou, He, and We.

(3.) Three Divine Persons and yet but One God.

It is clear, then, from the New Testament, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all Persons, and all Divine; and yet the fact of there being but one God is at times plainly asserted.[467] Now the only means of reconciling all this is by the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. And this is plainly hinted at in the New Testament itself, for the Three Persons are often closely associated together, as for instance in the text just alluded to, where Christ prays the Father to give His disciples another Comforter.

[467] Mark 12. 29; 1 Cor. 8. 4.

Quite naturally, then, just before His Ascension, Christ completed this earlier teaching by finally, and for ever, joining the Three Persons together, when He commanded Christians to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[468] And this alone is sufficient to prove the doctrine, for it shows that there are Three distinct Persons, and that each is Divine, for who but God could be thus associated with God? While the expression into the name and not names, implies a unity in this Trinity.

[468] Matt. 28. 19.

And we happen to have indirect evidence from the Acts, that baptism was administered in this way. For when St. Paul found some disciples, who said they knew nothing about the Holy Ghost; he at once asked, 'Into what then were ye baptized?'[469] Obviously, then, the baptism to which St. Paul was accustomed must have been into the name of the Holy Ghost, as well as into that of Christ; and the Father's name could scarcely have been omitted. Yet immediately afterwards we are told that they were baptized into the Name of the Lord Jesus. In the same way the 'Teaching of the Twelve' once speaks of baptism as into the Name of the Lord; and twice as into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[470] The former seems to have been only a short way of describing Christian baptism, (in distinction from that of the Jews, or of St. John the Baptist), while the latter represented the actual words used.[471]

[469] Acts 19. 3.

[470] Teaching, chaps. vii. and ix.

[471] Comp. Acts 2. 38; 8. 16; 18. 25; I Cor. 10. 2.

Similarly St. Paul sometimes closes his Epistles with the shorter form of blessing. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you; once with an intermediate form, naming the Father and Christ; and once with the longer form, The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.[472] This latter passage, the genuineness of which is undisputed, is of course extremely important, in fact like the preceding one it is practically conclusive; for again we must ask, who but God could be thus associated with God? If Christ were a mere human prophet, like Isaiah for instance; and the Holy Spirit a mere influence for good; what strange language it would be. Can we imagine anyone blessing his converts with, The grace of Isaiah, the love of God, and the fellowship of a holy influence-God, it will be noticed, being placed between the other two, so there can be no ascending or descending scale, they must all be equal?

[472] 1 Cor. 16. 23; Gal. 6. 18; Eph. 6. 23; 2 Cor. 13. 14.

And as St. Paul takes for granted that his readers would understand his meaning, it implies that they had had some previous teaching on the subject, which must clearly have been given them by St. Paul himself on his first visit. And at that early date (about A.D. 50) such teaching could scarcely have originated except from what Christ Himself had taught. This passage, then, implies more than it says, and needs explanation; and as far as we know the former one alone can explain it.

And of course the same is true, though to a lesser degree, of numerous other Trinitarian passages which occur all through the Epistles, including the earliest (1 Thess., about A.D. 50).[473] Nowhere do the writers seem to be explaining anything new to their converts; but merely to be touching on a truth, with which all Christians were of course familiar. Indeed, the very fact of their never attempting to explain or defend the doctrine, shows conclusively that it did not originate with them. Persons do not preach a new doctrine without a word of explanation or comment, as if every one already believed it.

[473] E.g., Rom. 15. 30; Eph. 4. 4-6; 1 Thess. 1. 3-5; 1 Peter 1. 2; Jude 20-21.

Thus, to put it shortly, according to the New Testament, there are Three distinct Persons; each is God, each is Lord, each is Eternal, each is Omniscient, into the Name of each converts are baptized, each is referred to in Blessing; and yet there is but One God. This is what the Bible says, and the Creed says the same, though it says it in more logical language.

(B.) The Final State of the Wicked.

We pass on now to what is perhaps the most difficult of all subjects, the final state of the wicked. The Creed asserts that all men are to rise again with their bodies, and be judged according to their works; and that then, they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This latter expression can scarcely be taken literally, since it is associated in the Bible with another-the worm that dieth not-which cannot be literal, as worms do not live for ever, and cannot live at all in fire. While it is said to have been prepared for evil spirits who have no material bodies. Moreover, the joys of heaven are also represented by terms which are clearly not literal; such as attending a wedding, feasting with Abraham, and wearing crowns. Probably we are not at present able to understand the realities in either case, so figures of some kind have to be used; and those associated with gladness and happiness are of course chosen for the one, and those with pain and woe for the other.

But the language certainly implies some form of endless misery; and as there are obvious difficulties in accepting such a view, we must discuss the subject carefully. It may be pointed out at starting that we have only three theories to choose from; for unless the wicked are to be in a continual state of change, which seems almost incredible (for a state of change cannot go on for ever, unless it is recurring) they must finally either exist for ever in misery, or exist for ever in happiness, or be destroyed, and not exist for ever.

(1.) Their endless misery.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the strength of the texts in favour of this. We are told that the wicked, or at all events some of them, are to awake to shame and everlasting contempt; that they are to be cast into the eternal fire; that they are to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; that they are to go away into eternal punishment; that they are guilty of an eternal sin; that their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched; and that they are to be cast into the lake of fire, there to be tormented day and night for ever and ever.[474] The fourth of these texts is perhaps the most important, since Christ uses the same word for eternal punishment as for eternal life; therefore, though the Greek word does not necessarily mean endless, it certainly seems to do so here. Similarly in Daniel the same Hebrew word is used for the everlasting life of the righteous, as for the everlasting contempt of the wicked. Moreover the doctrine is implied in numerous other passages;[475] so altogether the New Testament teaching on the subject seems about as plain as it can be.

[474] Dan. 12. 2; Matt. 18. 8; 25. 41, 46; Mark 3. 29; 9. 48; Rev. 14. 11; 20. 15.

[475] E.g., Matt. 7. 13, 23; 8. 12; 10. 33; 12. 32; 13. 42, 50, etc.

Yet everyone must admit that there are great difficulties in accepting it. For the endless misery of the wicked appears to be inconsistent with the great attributes of God, especially His power, His justice, and His mercy; as well as with the endless happiness of the righteous. We will consider these points in turn.

And first as to God's power. The eternal existence of sinners against God means, it is said, a never-ending conflict between good and evil; and this is most improbable. No doubt it seems so, but then the existence of evil at all is a difficulty; yet as shown in Chapter V. it is essential for free will. And the final state of the wicked is but one out of many difficulties connected with human freedom. That God could create a free man at all; that He could foresee how he would use his freedom; that He should allow him to use it wrongly, thus involving himself and others in misery; and that this misery should last for ever; are all to a great extent beyond our comprehension. But as the first three must be admitted, the last is certainly not incredible.

The second and commonest objection refers to God's justice. The suffering, it is said, would be out of all proportion to the offence. Man's life is brief at the most, and every sin in this world cannot deserve countless years of misery in the next. In short, a man's sin here must anyhow be finite, while endless misery, however slight, would be infinite. But very possibly, being sinners ourselves, we do not realise the magnitude of sin, more especially its far-reaching and permanent effect on the character of others, who in their turn may influence others also, and so on indefinitely. In this way the consequences of even a single sin may be endless, and therefore infinite, and if so its guilt may be infinite too. And this also agrees with the analogy of nature. For in nature nothing is forgotten, and even a small act, like planting a flower has (almost) endless consequences, since the ground will never be exactly the same as if it had not been planted.

Moreover, we need not assume that endless misery is for a man's sins here only. Why may not the wicked go on sinning for ever? They must certainly have the power of doing so, for the option of acting, or at all events of thinking right or wrong, is essential to free will; and if we deny them their free will, they are no longer men but mere machines. And it even seems probable that they would do so; for all our experience of human character is that it tends to a final permanence, of good or bad, which nothing can alter. By doing good, men become good-evil gradually loses its influence over them. And then, when their character is fixed, they will cease to be attracted by evil; and they will in consequence remain (and this without any effort or struggle on their part) for ever good, and therefore for ever happy. Similarly with regard to the wicked. By committing sin men become sinful, and then, when their character is fixed, they may remain for ever sinful, and therefore for ever miserable. In each case the man's conduct will be always free; but his character, and therefore the use which he makes of his freedom, will have become fixed. And perhaps one of the strongest motives for leading a good life here, and thus forming a good character, is the knowledge that, whether good or bad, it will be our character for all eternity.

No doubt it is an overwhelming thought that a man's endless happiness, or misery should depend on his short probation in this world; yet as he is given free will with the option of choosing one or the other, there is nothing unjust in the results being so permanent. And it entirely agrees with God's methods in nature, where, for instance, the shape of a tree for centuries is fixed during the short time it is growing.

Nor does the fact of God's foreknowledge as to how each man will act alter the case or cause any injustice, since, as said in Chapter II., it does not interfere with man's freedom. God merely foreknows the use man will make of his freedom. Therefore His knowing beforehand that a man will commit a murder does not make it unjust to punish him for doing so. And the same rule applies universally; so that although God foreknows that the wicked will be lost, they will not be lost because God foreknows it. They will be lost because of their own wilful abuse of their own free will; and God foreknows both this, and its consequences.

The third objection refers to God's mercy. Surely, it is said, God would never punish men unless there were a chance of improving them; so it is incredible that He should go on punishing them for ever. But perhaps the future misery of the wicked may not be a punishment at all, in the sense of being inflicted by God; it may be the necessary result of their own acts,-the consequence rather than the punishment of sin. Or if we still use the word punishment, we may say that they will be punished, not so much for doing what they have done, as by being what they have become. It will be according to their works rather than because of them.[476]

[476] Matt. 16. 27; Rom. 2. 6.

And there is much to be said in favour of this view, since it is the way in which God punishes men in this world. Suppose, for instance, a man repeatedly gives way to drink, he will have the natural punishment (which is really God's punishment, Who is the Author of Nature) of being what he has become, an habitual drunkard, and very possibly miserable for the rest of his life. It is the necessary consequence of his sin; and the extent of his misery will, as a rule, be in exact proportion to the extent of his sin. Therefore, if a man is to suffer hereafter for other sins, we should expect this suffering to come in the same way; and to be the natural, and perhaps unavoidable, consequence of the sin itself.

Nor is it difficult to suggest how this may be. For the endless misery of the wicked may be to a great extent mental, rather than bodily-shame and everlasting contempt, as Daniel calls it. They may be tormented by remorse and regret at having made themselves unfit to share in the joys of heaven. And until we know the greatness of those joys, we cannot know the greatness of this suffering. But if the joys of heaven are endless, and if the existence of the wicked outside heaven is also endless, it must plainly be an endless source of misery. While, in conclusion, the fact that it is the same Christ who has taught us (more than anyone else) the mercy and love of God, who has also taught us the endless misery of the wicked, is an additional reason for thinking that the two cannot really be inconsistent.

The fourth and last objection refers to man rather than God. It is that the endless misery of the wicked would destroy the happiness of the righteous; for how could a man enjoy heaven if he knew that his own father and mother were in endless and hopeless misery elsewhere? Of course, if we deny him his memory, and say he does not remember them, it destroys his identity, and for all practical purposes, he is a different man. I have not met with any satisfactory answer to this difficulty. But it may be pointed out that if he knows his parents' fate, he will certainly know their character too, and that their fate was deserved. And this may alter his feelings in regard to them, as it often does now, if we find that one of our friends has behaved in a mean, and disgraceful manner.

Reviewing all these objections, it must be admitted that the endless misery of the wicked seems improbable, but it is certainly not incredible. For, to put it s

hortly, our knowledge of human nature convinces us that, out of a large number of wicked men, some at all events will continue to be wicked, i.e. to commit sin as long as they live. Hence, if they live for ever, they will sin for ever. And if they sin for ever, it is not only just, but perhaps inevitable, that they should be miserable for ever. And if so, the endless misery of the wicked does not reflect on either the power, justice, or mercy of God, and, as said above, is certainly not incredible.

(2.) Their endless happiness.

We pass on now to the next theory, that of their endless happiness. According to this, all the wicked (after some suitable punishment) will at last be reconciled to God, and in popular language, go to heaven. And there are several texts which are more or less in favour of this view.[477] But how are we to reconcile these with the far stronger ones before alluded to? The most probable explanation is that they are merely general statements, indicating the final destiny of the vast majority of mankind, but that there are exceptions to this as to most other rules. And the Creed nowhere implies that most men will be lost; it may be only a few obstinate sinners.

[477] E.g., Col. 1. 20; 1 Tim. 4. 10; 1 John 2. 2; Rev. 5. 13.

Moreover, we cannot think that the wicked will be allowed to go on sinning in heaven, so if they go there, they must finally cease to commit sin. Many may do this voluntarily, but what about the remainder? If they must finally forsake sin, whether they like it or not, it destroys their free will, and leads to compulsory goodness, which is very like a contradiction in terms. For goodness cannot be ascribed to mere machines without free will, which only act under compulsion; yet on this theory the men would be nothing more. In fact, the wicked men would in reality have been destroyed, and a good piece of mechanism created instead; which scarcely seems a probable theory.

Then there is this further difficulty: what is to become of the evil angels? If we have to admit endless misery for these, why not for man? Yet the Bible gives no hint that the Devil will in the end be reconciled to God, and go to heaven.

(3.) Their destruction.

Lastly, as to the other and only possible alternative, the destruction of the wicked. This may be better described as their failure to obtain everlasting life; which is here regarded not as the attribute of all men, but as being conditional on a man's fulfilling certain duties and developing a certain character in this life. And the wicked, not having done this, will eventually be destroyed and cease to exist. Numerous texts can be quoted in favour of this theory.[478] And it is also supported by the analogy of nature: for if an organism or a species is a failure, it eventually ceases to exist; it is not kept alive for ever as a disfigurement to the world.

[478] E.g., John 6. 51; Rom. 6. 23; Matt. 10. 28.

This theory, no doubt, presents less moral difficulties than either of the others, but it is not free from them. For are the wicked to be punished after death previous to their destruction? If they are not, justice is not satisfied; and while excessive punishment seems a reflection on God's character, no punishment at all for sinners who have been successful in this world, seems equally so. Yet, on the other hand, any punishment which precedes destruction seems merely vindictive, and of no possible use.

Each of these theories, then, appears improbable, but the endless misery of the wicked is scarcely more so than the others, and therefore, as it is the one most strongly supported by the Bible, we seem bound to accept it.

One remark may however be made in conclusion, and it brings a little comfort into this saddest of all truths. It is that whatever doubt may exist as to the future state of the wicked, of one thing we may be quite sure-that their punishment will not be in excess of what they deserve. They will be treated fairly; and every merciful allowance will be made for circumstances, including the inherent weakness of human nature. Christianity indeed seems to emphasise this more than any other religion, since men are to be judged not by the Father, but by the Son; apparently for this very reason that, being Man, He can sympathise with human weakness.[479] And after the judgment, persons will enjoy heaven just in proportion as their lives on earth have rendered them capable of doing so, while the misery of the lost will also be in exact proportion to what they deserve.

[479] John 5. 27.

(C.) The Importance of a True Belief.

The last doctrine to be considered is the importance of a True Belief, that is of believing the truth in regard to matters of religion. This is strongly insisted on in the warning clauses of the Athanasian Creed; so we will first consider their meaning, then their truthfulness, and lastly, the objection as to dogmatism.

(1.) Their meaning.

Before discussing this, it may be pointed out that they are often called the damnatory or uncharitable clauses; but both these terms are somewhat misleading. For the Creed does not condemn anyone by these clauses, it merely declares that certain persons will be condemned by God, which is a very different thing. No one desires their condemnation, but the contrary; therefore, believing the danger to be a fact, it is stated in the hope that persons will in consequence avoid it.

An analogy may help to illustrate this distinction. Suppose a despotic ruler in some island were to put up a notice that anyone walking along a certain part of the coast would be arrested and shot; this might well be called uncharitable. But now, suppose the notice was that, owing to their being quicksands along that part of the coast, anyone walking there would be drowned; this might be untrue, but it could scarcely be called uncharitable. So in regard to the Creed. Its warnings (whether true or false) are in no sense uncharitable; and it no more consigns men to perdition (as it is sometimes called) for denying the faith, than a doctor consigns men to die of fever for drinking bad water. In each case they merely state what they believe will (unfortunately) be the result.

Its warnings are also quite different from the Let him be anathema of St. Paul, as well as from some of the Psalms, where the writer does not merely state that the wicked will be miserable, but prays that they may be so.[480] This no doubt seems uncharitable, but there is nothing like it in the Creed.

[480] E.g., Gal. 1. 8-9; Ps. 69.

What the Creed says is that holding, or holding fast,[481] the Catholic Faith, especially the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, is necessary to salvation (vv. 1, 28, 29, 42); and that those who do not keep (or hold fast) this Faith will perish everlastingly (v. 2). The word keep, it should be noticed, implies previous possession, since a man cannot keep what he never had; so these verses are inapplicable to heathens, infidels, or even nominal Christians who have never really held the Faith. They refer only to apostates-to those who, having once held the Faith, do not keep it.

[481] It is so translated in the revised version, issued in November, 1909, by a Committee, under the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Moreover, there can be little doubt that the apostasy here referred to was not that due to intellectual doubt, but to giving way, under persecution. For the Gothic conquerors of Southern Europe, where the Creed was composed about the fifth century, were Arians, and they much persecuted the Catholics. So a statement of what the Catholic Faith really was (in opposition to Arianism) might well contain warnings as to the great danger of abandoning it under trial and persecution. In the same way Christ warned His followers that if they denied Him before men, He would also deny them before His Father.

And a time of persecution is distinctly implied in the Creed itself. For in ver. 30 we are told that it is not enough to believe the faith, it must be publicly confessed; and even in ver. 1, the holding or holding fast, suggests a temptation to surrender. Compare the passage: Thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith:[482] where in the Latin translation (the Vulgate) the same word is used for hold fast, as occurs in the Creed.

[482] Rev. 2. 13, 25; 3. 11; 2 Tim. 1. 13.

Next as to the meaning of to perish. This is no doubt much disputed, both here, and in the similar passage in the Gospel, where Christ says that all who believe on Him shall not perish, but have eternal (or everlasting) life; which certainly implies that those who disbelieve, or cease to believe, shall perish, and shall not have everlasting life, i.e., shall perish everlastingly.[483] But whatever Christ meant by these words, the Creed means too, neither more nor less. Taken by themselves, they seem to point to the destruction of the wicked; or perhaps only to their failure to obtain the joys of heaven, without actually ceasing to exist.

[483] John 3. 16.

But however this may be, one thing is plain; that, according to the Creed, those who have been taught the truth about God, (i.e., the Catholic Faith), must both lead a good life, (fighting against sin, etc.), and also hold fast, or keep this faith, if they wish to be saved. And St. Paul evidently regarded these as the two essentials; for at the close of his life, he rejoiced because he had fought the good fight, and kept the faith.[484]

[484] 2 Tim. 4. 7.

(2.) Their truthfulness.

Having thus shown what the warning clauses actually mean, we have next to consider whether they are true. Now, it is plain from the nature of the case that we can know nothing on such a subject, except what is revealed by God. Is then, this doctrine stated or implied in the New Testament? Certainly it is, since belief in Christ is everywhere laid down as necessary to salvation. He is not one Saviour among many, nor is Christianity one means among many of getting to heaven. But Christianity is always represented as the only means, and Christ as the only Saviour.

We have already alluded to one text on this subject, that about the perishing; and we will now quote five others, each from a different writer, thus showing that the doctrine was not peculiar to any one Apostle or Evangelist. We are told then, that while he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that disbelieveth shall be condemned; that unless men believe in Christ they shall die in their sins; that His is the only Name under heaven wherein men can be saved; that public confession of Him as Lord, together with belief in His Resurrection, leads to salvation; and that His Blood alone can redeem us from our sins.[485]

[485] Mark 16. 16; John 8. 24; Acts 4. 12; Rom. 10. 9; 1 Pet. 1. 19.

And the early Christians acted in entire accordance with this. When, for instance, the gaoler at Philippi asked St. Paul, What must I do to be saved? the answer was, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.[486] Repentance, baptism, and amendment of life, would of course follow in due time; but first of all, before all other things, it was necessary that he should believe in Christ. This was the great essential.

[486] Acts 16. 31.

Now it is obvious that the belief in Christ, which is thus everywhere insisted on, must mean believing the truth about Christ, and not a false belief. If, then, the statements in the Creed represent the truth about Christ, as we have shown they do, then belief in these is necessary to salvation. And the Bible, like the Creed, expressly says that the great and fundamental truth about Christ, which we must both believe and confess, is His Incarnation, that He is come in the flesh.[487] And this involves His relationship to God the Father, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus the warning clauses as to the importance of a true belief, especially in regard to these two great doctrines, seem fully justified.

[487] 1 John 4. 2-3.

Three further remarks may be made before leaving this subject. The first is that the Creed is addressed to Christians only. This is clear from its opening sentence, Quicunque vult salvus esse, which means literally, 'Whoever wishes to be saved'; and this takes for granted that the persons addressed have heard of salvation. And, as we have shown, the following words, that they must hold fast or keep the Faith, also imply that they have been already taught it. The Creed cannot therefore be held to refer to any but Christians, no matter how general the language may be.

Secondly, among Christians the Creed is meant chiefly for theologians. This is plain from its technical language, which is so worded as to prevent a recurrence of several old errors. And it seems only fair to assume that children and unlearned persons belonging to a Church holding these doctrines would be considered as believing them. But though a child's belief,[488] which is merely trust and love, may be sufficient for a child, something more may reasonably be expected from well-instructed Christians. And this is that they should believe these doctrines rightly (v. 29), though this is a most unfortunate translation of the Latin word fideliter, as it seems to connect it with the right faith (fides recta) of the following verse. It would be better rendered by faithfully, as it is in v. 24, or heartily. Thus a heartfelt belief in the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation-a belief which leads at once to worship, for 'the Catholic Faith is that we worship one God':-is what the Creed says is so essential.

[488] Matt. 18. 6.

Lastly, all these statements, like so many passages in the Bible,[489] are only general rules; to which there are often some exceptions. And in the present case, we may feel sure (from other passages)[490] that God will make exceptions, wherever unbelief or misbelief has not been due to a person's own fault. Our conclusion, then, as to the warning clauses is this; that if the other statements of the Creed are true (as we have shown they are), these clauses do not present any great difficulty.

[489] E.g., 1 Cor. 6. 12.

[490] E.g., 1 Tim. 1. 13.

(3.) The objection as to dogmatism.

An important objection has still to be considered. It is that the Athanasian Creed dogmatises too much. Granting, it is said, that all its doctrines are contained in the New Testament, yet why not be content with the simpler statements in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds? These were sufficient for the Church for several centuries, so why not leave other matters open for discussion, instead of treating them as closed questions? We will consider these points in turn.

And first as to dogmatism; by which is meant the exact statement of any truth. Now on all other subjects which influence our conduct, such as diseases or science, it is admitted to be of great importance that we should know the truth, and act accordingly. Why, then, should it be thought that in Religion alone this is immaterial, and that a false Creed is as good as the true one, if a man honestly believes it?

Moreover, a certain amount of dogmatism in matters of Religion seems essential. No one can intelligently serve or pray to a God of Whose Nature he has formed no idea, and the moment he begins to form such an idea he is involved in difficulties. Take for example what some will consider a very simple prayer, May God forgive my sins for Christ's sake. Who, we may ask, is God; who is Christ; what is the relation between them; why should One be asked to forgive for the sake of the Other; and what would happen if the sins were not forgiven? Such difficulties cannot be avoided; and if the statements in the Athanasian Creed are their true explanation, the more clearly this is stated the better.

In the next place, it is very doubtful whether the earlier Creeds are simpler and more easy to believe than the Athanasian. To a thoughtful reader it may well seem otherwise. For example, referring to the Trinity, the Apostles' Creed teaches us to believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, but it does not attempt to answer the simplest questions concerning Them. Are They, for instance, all three Persons? if so, are They all three Divine? and if so, are They three Gods? And the Nicene Creed is even more puzzling, for it first says that there is one God the Father, and soon afterwards that the Son is also God. So in regard to the Holy Spirit, He is called the Lord, yet it has been already stated that there is only one Lord Jesus Christ. How can all this be reconciled? And much the same applies to the future state of the wicked. The two earlier Creeds speak of the life everlasting (for the good), but what is to become of the bad? These and many other questions are suggested by the earlier Creeds, and answered by the Athanasian. And to many it seems easier to believe the Creed which answers difficulties, than those which merely suggest them.

And it was for this very purpose of answering difficulties, not making them, that the Athanasian Creed was composed. Its object was not to assert any new doctrines, or to suggest that those previously received were not sufficient, but merely to explain them, and to prevent them from being misunderstood. All the doctrines, as we have seen, are contained in the New Testament, and they were in consequence always believed by Christians. But it was not till after much controversy that men learnt to express this belief with clearness and precision.

Lastly, as to these doctrines being closed questions. They are closed questions in much the same way as the fact that the earth goes round the sun, and not the sun round the earth, is a closed question in astronomy. That is to say, they have been thoroughly discussed, and (to those who believe the New Testament) the evidence in their favour is overwhelming. Of course anyone may go over the proofs again for himself, and if he wants to have an intelligent belief he should do so; but as a rule of conduct the subject cannot be re-opened.

And it should be noticed that the Church, in thus treating certain questions as closed for its members, is only acting as other societies would do. Would a society of engineers, for instance, allow one of its members to construct an iron bridge on the supposition that the expansion of iron by heat was an open question; which he might, or might not, think worth allowing for? Or would a society of doctors allow one of its members to attend patients if he asserted that whether scarlet fever was infectious or not was an open question; which each patient might decide for himself? In short, well-ascertained truth, or what is believed to be such, in every department of knowledge is looked upon as a closed question; and it must remain so, unless some important fresh evidence is produced. But with regard to the Creeds, no fresh evidence can be produced, unless God were to give a fresh Revelation; so, from the nature of the case, they are closed questions in an even stricter sense than ascertained truths on other subjects.

This concludes a brief examination of the doctrines of the Three Creeds, and, as we have seen, they are all either contained in, or logically deducible from, the New Testament.

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