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The Holy Catholic Church.
THIS article was, I conceive, adjoined or inserted here, upon occasion of these many heresies and schisms, which from the beginning continually sprang up, to the danger of Christian doctrine, and disturbance of the church; the introducers thereof meaning thereby to secure the truth of religion, the authority of ecclesiastical discipline, the peace and unity of the church, by engaging men to disclaim any consent or conspiracy with any of those erroneous or contentious people, (who had devised new conceits, destructive or dangerous to the faith, against the general consent of Christians, or drave on troublesome factions, contrary to the common order, and prejudicial to the peace of the church.) Their meaning of this article therefore was, I take it, this: I believe, that is, I do adhere unto, (for belief, as we at first observed, is to be taken as the nature of the matter requireth,) or I am persuaded that I ought to adhere unto, that body of Christians which, diffused over the world, retains the faith which was taught, and the discipline which was settled, and the peace which was enjoined by our Lord and his disciples; I acknowledge the doctrines generally embraced by the churches founded and instructed by the apostles; I am ready to observe the received customs and practices by them derived from apostolical institution; I submit to the laws and disciplines by lawful authority established in them; I do persist in charity, concord, and communion with them.
And that men anciently should be obliged to profess thus, there is ground both in reason and scripture. In reason, there being no more proper or effectual argument to assure us that any doctrine is true, or practice warrantable; no means more proper to convince sectaries, deviating from truth or duty, than the consent of all churches, of whom (being so distant in place, language, customs, humour; so independent, or coordinate in power) it is not imaginable, that they should soon or easily conspire in forsaking the doctrines inculcated by the apostles, or the practices instituted by them: it is the argument which Irenæus, Tertullian, and other defenders of Christian truth and peace do press; and it may in matters of this kind pass for a demonstration.
It hath also ground in scripture; which as it foretells that pernicious heresies should be introduced; that many false prophets should arise, and seduce many; that grievous wolves should come in, not sparing the flock; that men should arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them; as they warn us to take heed of such men, to reject and refuse heretics, to mark those which make divisions and scandals beside the doctrine which Christians had learnt, and to decline from them; to stand off from such men as do érepodidaσkaλeiv, that is, 1 Tim. vi. 3. teach things different from apostolical doctrine, the 14. iii. 14. doctrine according to godliness; as it enjoins us to hold fast the form of sound words heard from the apostles; to continue in the things which we have learned and been assured of, knowing of whom we learnt them; to obey from the heart that form of Rom. vi. 17. doctrine into which we were delivered; to keep the 2 Thess. ii. traditions as the apostles delivered them to us; to 15. iii. 6.
2 Tim. i. 13,
I Cor. xi. 2.
stand fast, and hold the traditions which we were taught, whether by word or writing; to strive earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; as it enjoins us to walk orderly, to obey our guides, or rulers; to pursue peace, to maintain concord; to abide in charity with all good Christians; as it declareth heresies, factions, contentions, and separations to be the works of the flesh, proceeding from corrupt dispositions of soul, (pride, covetousness, vanity, rashness, instability, perverseness, craft, hypocrisy, want of conscience;) so it also describes the universality of them, who stick to the truth, and observe the law Eph. iv. 3. of Christ, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; to be one body, knit together, and compacted of parts, affording mutual aid and supply to its nourishment and welfare; joined to, and deriving life, motion, sense, from one Head; informed by one Spirit; as one house, built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles, Christ himself being the corner stone, in whom all the building is fitly framed and connected; as one family under one master; one city under one governor; one flock under one shepherd; one nation or people, subject to the same law and government, used to the same speech, custom, and conversation; lastly, as one church or congregation; for, as sometimes every particular assembly of Christians, and Tertull. sometimes a larger collection of particular societies, Exh. Cast, combined together in one order, and under one government, are termed churches; so the whole aggregation of all particular churches, or of all Christian people, is frequently called the church; even as the whole body of those who lived in the profession of obedience to the Jewish law, which was a type of
sunt etiam laici, ibi ecclesia est.
the Christian church, is called p EKKλnoía, the congregation.
In relation to which society, these are the duties which we here profess ourselves obliged to, and in effect promise to observe:
1. That we do and will persist in the truth of Christian doctrine, delivered by our Saviour and his apostles, attested unto by the general consent of all Christians; avoiding all novelties of opinion deviating from apostolical doctrine.
2. That we are obliged to maintain a hearty charity and good affection to all good Christians.
3. That we are bound to communicate with all good Christians, and all societies sincerely professing faith, charity, and obedience to our Lord; so as to join with them, as occasion shall be, in all offices of piety; to maintain good correspondence and concord with them.
4. That we should submit to the discipline and order, should preserve the peace, and endeavour the welfare of that part thereof wherein we live for what of good or harm is done to a member thereof, is also done to the whole.
5. That we should disavow and shun all factious combinations whatever, of persons corrupting the truth of Christian doctrine, or disturbing the peace of the church, or of any part thereof.
6. In fine, that we sincerely should wish in our hearts, earnestly pray for, and by our best endeavours promote the peace and prosperity of the whole catholic church; whereof we profess ourselves members and children; following, as St. Paul directs, right- 2 Tim.ii.22. eousness, faith, charity, peace, with those that call upon our Lord with a pure heart.
The Communion of Saints.
THESE words were not extant in any of the ancient Creeds, but were afterward inserted: nor, as I conceive, doth the meaning of them much differ from what was intended in the precedent article; and perhaps it was adjoined for interpretation thereof: for the meaning of them is, as I take it, that all the saints (that is, all Christians, either in legal presumption, or according to real disposition of heart, such) do, in effect, or should, according to obligation, communicate, partake, join together, consent, and agree in what concerneth saints, or members of the holy catholic church; in believing and acknowledging the same heavenly truth; in performance of devotions or offices of piety with and for one another; in charitable good-will and affection toward one another; in affording mutual advices, assistances, and supplies toward the good (either spiritual or temporal) of each other; in condolency and compassion of each other's evils, in congratulation and complacency in each other's good; in minding the same thing for one another, and bearing one another's burdens; so that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. This briefly seems to be the meaning of this point; and I need not to insist on clearing the truth, or shewing the uses thereof; the doctrine so manifestly carrying its obligation and its use in the face thereof.