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THE VARIOUS FORMS OF THE PRIMITIVE CREED.
§ 1. We do not intend to discuss the question whether the particular form of words, known throughout so many centuries as the Apostles' Creed, was delivered, in its present shape, by the Apostles themselves. Such was undoubtedly the prevailing opinion of the Christian Church in all ages. But it is much more important to examine the various declarations of the faith which occur in the earlier Christian writers and Councils, in order to demonstrate their substantial unity with the doctrine maintained by the Church in our own day. For, next to the Scriptures, we see not how any reflecting mind can avoid holding in the highest esteem the testimony of the Primitive Church. The Apostles had the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth,-hence said St. Paul, 'We have the mind of Christ:'and manifest it is that the first Christian Churches, with whom these inspired men labored for years in word and doctrine, had the best opportunity of knowing the mind of the Apostles, and would be most likely to transmit the faith uncorrupted and pure, at least for a considerable period, to those who succeeded them.
We commence by setting forth the account given by the celebrated Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, who flourished
in the second century, within fifty years from the death of St. John the Apostle.
(a) The Church,' says this primitive witness, 'although dispersed through the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and other disciples that faith which is in one God the Father almighty, who made the heavens and the earth, and the sea and all things which are therein; and in one Jesus Christ the Son of God, incarnate for the sake of our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who, by the Prophets, preached the dispensation and the advent of God, and the birth of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ from the Virgin, and his passion, and his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension in the flesh into heaven, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to restore all things, and to recall to life from the dead all flesh of all mortals, so that to Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, and Saviour and King,
(a) ̔Η μεν γαρ εκκλησία, καίπερ καθ ̓ ὅλης τῆς δικουμενής ἕως περάτων τῆς γῆς διεσπαρμενή, παρὰ δὲ τῶν ἀποξύλων, καί τῶν ἐκείνων μαθητων παραλαβουσα την εις ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, τὸν πεποιηκότα τὸν ἀυρανὸν, και την γῆν, καὶ τὰς θαλασσας, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν ἀυτοῖς, πίςιν· καὶ εις ένα Χρισὸν Ἰησοῦν, τον υιόν του Θεου, τον σαρκωθέντα ὑπὲρ τῆς ἡμε τέρας σωτηρίας· καὶ εις Πνευμα ἅγιον, το διά των Προφήτων κεκηρυχος τὰς οικονομίας, καὶ τὰς ἐλεύσεις, καὶ την εκ Παρθένου γέννησιν, καὶ τὸ πάθος, καὶ τὴν ἔγερσιν ἐκ νεκρῶν, καὶ τὴν ἔνσαρκον εις τους ουρανοὺς ἀνάληψιν του ἠγαπημένου Χριςου Ιησου του Κυρίου ἡμῶν, καὶ τὴν εκ των ουρανῶν εν τη δόξῃ του Πατρὸς παρουσίαν αυτου, επὶ τὸ ανακεφαλαιώσαθαι τὰ πάντα, καὶ ἀναστῆσαι πᾶσαν σάρκα πάσης ἀνθρωπότητος, ἵνα Χριζω Ιησοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, καὶ Θεῷ καὶ σωτῆρι, καὶ βασίλει, κατά την ευδοκίαν του πατρὸς τοῦ ἀοράτου, πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων, καὶ ἐπιγεί un', καὶ καταχθονίων, καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ἀυτῷ, καὶ κρίσιν δικαίαν εν τοῖς πᾶσι ποιήσηται, τὰ μεν πνευματικά της πονηρίας, καὶ ἀγγέλους παραβεβηκότας, καὶ ἐν ἀποφασία γεγονότας, καὶ τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς, καὶ ἀδίκες, καὶ ἀνόμους καὶ βλασφήμους των ἀνθρώπων εις τὸ ἀιώνιον πῦρ πέμψῃ· τοῖς δὲ δικαίοις, καὶ ὁσίοις, καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς ἀυτοῦ τετηρηκόσι, καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἀυτοῦ διαμεμενηκόσι, τοῖς ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς, τοῖς δὲ εκ μετανοίας, ζωην χαρισάμενος, ἀφθαρσίαν δωρησήται, και δόξαν ἀιωνίαν περιποιηση.
by the benign will of the invisible Father, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess to him, and that he should execute righteous judgment upon spiritual wickedness, upon the angels who transgressed, being apostates; committing also impious men, and unjust, and flagitious, and blasphemous, to eternal fire e; but granting life to the just, and to the pious who have kept his commandments, and have continued in his love, whether from the beginning or from the period of their repentance, and conferring upon them incorruptibility, and eternal glory. Iren. Cont. Hæres. Lib. 1. Cap. 10.
§ 2. From this interesting and strong testimonial of primitive antiquity, let us pass to another author but a little later, namely, Tertullian, the learned presbyter of Carthage, whose works may be dated from A. D. 192 to A. D. 216. This celebrated Father recognizes the Creed in many passages, of which two may suffice our present purpose. The first is found in his book De Virgin. Veland. § 1. in these words.
(b) The rule of faith is truly one, the sole rule that is immoveable and unchangeable, viz. that we believe in the only Omnipotent God, the Creator of the world, and in his Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, the third day raised from the dead, received into heaven, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, and about to come to judge the living and the dead, through the resurrection of the body.'
(b) 'Regula quidem fidei una omnino est, sola immobilis, et irrefor mabilis, credendi scilicet in unicum Deum omnipotentem, mundi conditorem, et filium ejus Jesum Christum, natum ex virgine Maria, crucifixum sub Pontio Pilato, tertia die resuscitatum a mortuis, receptum in cœlis, sedentem nunc ad dexteram Patris, venturum judicare vivos et mortuos per carnis etiam resurrectionem.
The second passage occurs in his book De Praescrip. Haereticor. § 13. and is as follows.
(c) 'But in order that we may set forth what we defend, the rule of faith is that by which God is believed to be truly One; nor is there any other creator of the world besides him, who produced all things from nothing, by his Word, sent forth before all. This Word, called his Son, was variously beheld by the Patriarchs, under the name of God, was always heard by the Prophets, and afterwards, from the Spirit, by the power of God the Father, was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and from her was born as Jesus Christ, who thenceforth preached the new law, and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, performed wonders, was fixed to the cross, was raised the third day, was taken into heaven, sat down on the right hand of the Father, and sent the vicarious power of the Holy Ghost, who influences believers; and he will come with glory, to receive the saints into the enjoyment of eternal life, and of the celestial promises, and to condemn the profane to perpetual fire, after both classes shall have been
(c) Regula est autem fidei ut jam hinc quid defendamus profiteamur, illa scilicet qua creditur unum omnino Deum esse; nec alium præter mundi conditorem; qui universa de nihilo produxerit, per Verbum suum primo omnium demissum; id Verbum Filium ejus appellatum, in nomine Dei varie visum a Patriarchis, in Prophetis semper auditum, postremo delatum ex Spiritu Patris Dei et virtute, in virginem Mariam, carnem factum in utero ejus, et ex ea natum egisse Jesum Christum; ex inde prædicasse novam legem, et novam promissionem regni cœlorum: virtutes fecisse: fixum cruci; tertia dia resurrexisse; in cœlos ereptum sedisse ad dexteram Patris; misisse vicariam vim Spiritus Sancti, qui credentes agat; venturum cum claritate, ad sumendos sanctos in vitæ æternæ et promissorum celestium fructum, et ad profanos adjudicandos igni perpetuo, facta utriusque partis resuscitatione cum carnis restitutione. Haec regula a Christo, ut probabitur, instituta, nullas habet apud nos quæstiones, nisi quas hæreses inferunt, et quæ hæreticos faciunt.
resuscitated, with the restoration of the flesh. This rule being instituted by Christ, as shall be proved, there are no questions amongst us except those which heresies introduce, and which make heretics.'
3. There is a remarkable testimony to the Apostolic origin of the Creed, in the first epistle of Clement, the Bishop of Rome, to James, which we should have placed at the head of our extracts, if its authenticity had not been disputed. The date which it claims is as far back as the year A. D. 60 or 70, but although it is an apocryphal authority, and its date must consequently be uncertain, yet it is assuredly very ancient, as may be well inferred from its comparative purity of doctrine. Considering it, then, as a valuable fragment of antiquity, we shall insert here the passage to which we refer, as we find it in the first vol. of Mansi's Collection of the Councils of the Church, p. 98. letter E. copied from Ruffinus.
(d) 'Faith and love are the foundation of all goodness. For without faith no one can please God. Therefore Christ being risen, and ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit being sent, and the knowledge of tongues conferred on the Apostles, as yet remaining together, every man declaring what he understood, they framed the Creed which the faithful Church now holds, in order that as they were about to depart from each other, they might preach this rule
(d) Fides enim et dilectio, totius bonitatis est fundamentum. Sine fide autem placere Deo nemo poterit. Christo itaque resurgente, et ascendente in cœlum, misso Sancto Spiritu, collata Apostolis scientia lin. guarum, adhuc in uno positi, symbolum, quod fidelis nunc tenet Ecclesia, unusquisque quod sensit dicendo, condiderunt, ut discedentes ab invicem, hanc regulam per omnes gentes prædicarent. Summam ergo totius fidei Catholicæ recensentes, in qua et integritas credulitatis ostenditur, unius Dei Omnipotentis (idest, Sanctæ Trinitatis) æqualitas declaratur, et mysterium incarnationis Filii Dei, qui pro salute humani generis a