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The Creed Question.
Much has been said, preached and printed on the Creeds of Christendom. The question is still often and warml; mooted, whether they should be, or can be, altered, amended, and improved, or must remain intact, to be made the test of faith and fellowship for all future generations. We have no desire to enter the list of contestants. Able advocates are enlisted on all sides, amply qualified and willing to exhaust what arguments and present what authorities, can be found to sustain their differering opinions.
Back of these arguments and above all human authorities lies the more important question, whether it were not wiser, better, more Christian to abolish all Creeds, designed and constructed by ambitions men and voted into authority by majorities in councils and conventicles assembled for the purpose. Civil governments have no rights in such matters. Although Creeds are become little isore than playthings for so:ne, dead letters for more, and subjects of controversy wliererer regarded of saving importance; they are still the basis of sectarian distinctions and larınful in many ways. They are harmless only when let alone. They have outlived their usefulness,(if they ever were nseful,) and are generally kept out of sight to be exhibited only on special occasions. They have too long led to bitter and hateful contentions and rivalries, creating discords and diversions in churches and neiglıborhoods, alienating friends and families, awakening doubts and creating difficulties in serious minds which often end in medical fraternity were in attendance. All give their opinion, that the limb could not be saved, except Amsden. He said he had two reasons for not taking off the leg. One was, that it could be cured. He was silent for a while, when one of the attending surgeons reminded him that he had given but one of the two reasons, for not taking off the leg. That it would get well was very gratifying; but if he had another reason, they would like to hear it. The doctor snid his second reason was a very important
The lad was young and his limbs were small. If they should cut off the limb and bury it; and the boy should grow to be a man, he would present a sad appearance in the resurrection with a man's body and a boy's leg!
unbelief, and lead to a distrust of the sincerity of those who profess them. They certainly have been used, whether intended or not, to control religious thought, circumscribe reason, prevent free investigation, and misguide conduct, denying “ the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and entangling in a yoke of bondage."
A Creed is a statement of what is believed by him who makes it, it may be, in whole or in part, of what is believed by him who accepted it. It may contain truth ; it may contain error ; or, more likely, a moiety of truth and a modicum of
Did it contain all truth, nothing but truth, absolute truth, it could need no change; it could not be improved, but might, with propriety, be proclaimed perpetual and universal. It would prevail as far and as fast as it became known. It would unite and make free all who embraced it. The Council at Ephesus did so proclaim, and solemnly enjoin that, “ No person shall be allowed to bring forward or to write, or to compose any other Creed besides that which was settled by the Holy Fathers who were assembled in the city of Nicæa.” Many Creeds had been adopted by previous councils and synods, one of which was afterwards ratified at the council at Chalcedon ; and the Nicæan Creed has been changed and enlarged several times since. So it appears the “ authority ” assembled at Nicæa, backed by imperial authority did not protect the Creed of “ The Church Universal,” nor secure the “union, peace and harmony," for which that famous council was called. On the contrary, new differences arose, feelings were embittered, fiercer controversies and wider divisions were augmented, and heresies and irreligion increased more rapidly than ever.
A Christian Creed professes to be a summary or compendium of Christian doctrine. Its makers and abettors claim to know exactly what is truth in the abstract and in the concrete, and precisely how to state, define and defend it, to make it the ultimate standard of a saving faith ; the only condition of fellowship and right to the Christian name. Outward as sent to such Creed is all that ecclesiastical or inspired author
ity can demand, enforce, or expect. It is accepted, though the heart be far from it. At the stake, on the rack, in the dungeon, it is sufficient, while, in fact, the love of life and self-right veil the conscience from the sight of ugodly persecutors, and appeal to the law of God, higher than church or state ever did or ever can enact. Before Creed Inquisitors honesty is not allowed to speak t?re truth or plead the right in safety. Doubt or hesitation is construed to moan “ damnable heresy,” to be punished with anathema here, and endless misery hereafter. This is the milder form, to which little importance is now attached by the thinking people, in or out of the church. Formerly it had a much deeper and more fearful significance, and the expected tortures of the future were faintly imitated by ihe ...ust exquisite sufuriugs the devices of cruel and wicked men could inflict. Honesty, sincerity, the deepest convictions of truth, right, duty, purity of life, holiness of heart, loyalty to God, conscience, humanity and the king, availed nothing in ecclesiastical courts. Coufession of the Creed, however insincere and hypocritical; offered in the last extremity, with becoming grace, obtained deliverance and secured protection.
That such a Creed was formulated by Jesus, or authority given his disciples to form one, cannot be pretended. His was a different ruling in the chancery of the kingdom he caine to establish in the earth. What is called the Apostles' Creed was not known till near the middle of the eighth century. It 'was never adopted by any general council of the Church.
It was very natural ; yea, it was necessary that the missionaries of the gospel should make a plain, distinct, emphatic statement of the Principles they had learned of Jesus, which they believed to be true and important, and which they taught in his name, in distinction from the theories and practices of the people for whose conviction, conversion, and salvation they labored.
So much was indispensable to the success of their mission. But that they were given a dogmatic Creed to offer for the Confession, or to enforce for a guide and limit of their faith, beyond the simple conviction that Jesus was the
Christ, the promised Messiah, a teacher of truth and righteousness, the Son of God the Saviour of the world, who was crucified but rose from the dead and brought immortality to light for the hope and comfort of mankind, can:10t be made to appear from the Book. A more certain and infallable test was given by which to know and to be known as his disciples ; one which cannot be counterfeited : By this shall all men know ye are my disciples : if ye have love one to another : “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” If the form in the rite of baptisın be cited, it is enough to say that no instance occurs in the record of the Acts of the Apostles or in the Epistles where that form was used ; but simply, “ in the name of the Lord'avus,” Acts viji. 16.
That faith is an essential elemen'c'in tỉe plan of salvation, in the formation of Christian character, and regulation of conduct, in the pursuit of happiness and every enterprise, no reasonable man can doubt. Without it nothing would be undertaken, nothing pursued, nothing accomplished, beyond the common instincts of animal life. The rational man must be convinced and believe before he will begin. The farmer will not sow where he does not believe he shall reap. The inerchant will not buy what he does not expect to sell. The hunter does not seek where he does not hope to find. The prudent general does not lead his army where he does not believe to win a victory. The scheming politician does not lay his plans, spread his net, and spend his money, unless he believes to beguile his followers and win promotion. “ He that would come to God must believe that he is and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” He that would secure the blessings and hopes of Christianity must believe on Jesus as the way, the truth, and the lise, and keep his commandments.
Faith is as essential in intellectual, scientific, moral and religious as in material pursuits. The processes of obtainment are not much unlike. The object being higher, nobler, the labor will be greater, the journey longer, and the way more complicated and difficult. What is more difficult and refined requires more careful thought, reflection and endeavor to se.
cure growth and completeness. Clear, personal conviction is indispensable to sound faith. No person can believe at will, ror by force, flattery or proxy. Many things are accepted on credit, without examination ; and many things we only half believe. By so doing one is often deceived. A Creed accepted without full conviction of its truth, or professed in ignorance, can have no saving power. Doubt demands proof. Reasonable evidence begets faith. Every proposition, like every house, should rest on a solid foundation. Faith is a conviction, the assurance of things not seen. It supplies the lack of knowledge. It guides where we cannot see. We prepare the soil and sow the seed, convinced the harvest will repay the toil. The germination is in the dark, under ground, out of sight, beyond our knowledge. It will not do to be ag. nostic in practical life. Nourishment is sucked from the earth though fibrous roots, and is forced to the topmost branches bo a power unseen. The rays of light, freighted with heat and life, descend from the sun. We know not how or where they combine or divide to form the branch, paint the leaves, color the flowers, and spread life and beauty the wide world over. Since the morning stars sang together the sun has rode forth in his cliariot of glory, scattering bounties and beauties everywhere. Neither our knowledge nor our faithi set him on the central throne of his vast dominion. We cannot tell him how, where, or when, to shine ; nor can our ignorance or unbelief prevent his shining. We know not his substance. We do not know how he forever imparts without consuming, exhaustless in supply without receiving. We rest content in the faith ihat the sun will continue to shine and dispense good and glory everywhere ; though thick darkness be sometimes round about us, and doubts arise in timid souls. The world has no need of Creeds of human contrivance to teach and guide, and restrain, and prevent, and show the sun how to shine ; or to regulate his course; or to change the immu. table laws by which the motions of the earth and sun arą governed. Who is qualified to write one? What astronomer is wise enough to undertake to do for science what theologians