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I HAVE in this book undertaken an exposition of the CREED, and think it necessary in this Preface to give a brief account of the work, lest any should either expect to find that here which was never intended, or conceive that which they meet with such as they expected not.
The CREED, without controversy, is a brief comprehension of the objects of our Christian faith, and is generally taken to contain all things necessary to be believed. Now whether all things necessary be contained there, concerneth not an Expositor to dispute, who is obliged to take notice of what is in it, but not to inquire into what is not: whether all truths comprehended in the same be of equal and absolute necessity, we are no way forced to declare; it being sufficient, as to the design of an Exposition, to interpret the words, and so deliver the sense, to demonstrate the truth of the sense delivered, and to manifest the proper necessity of each truth, how far, and in what degree, and to what purposes, it is necessary.
This therefore is the method which I proposed to myself, and have prosecuted in every Article. First, to settle the words of each Article according to their antiquity and generality of reception in the CREED. Secondly, to explicate and unfold the terms, and to endeavour a right notion and conception of them as they are to be understood in the same. Thirdly, to shew what are those truths which are naturally contained in those terms so explicated, and to make it appear that they are truths indeed, by such arguments and reasons as are respectively proper to evidence the verity of them. Fourthly, to declare what is the necessity of believing those truths, what efficacy and influence they have in the soul, and upon the life of a believer. Lastly, by a recollection of all, briefly to deliver the sum of every particular truth, so that every one, when he pronounceth the CREED, may know what he ought to intend, and what he is understood to profess, when he so pronounceth it.
In the prosecution of the whole, according to this method, I have considered, that a work of so general a concernment must be exposed to two kinds of readers, which, though they may agree in judgment, yet must differ much in their capacities. Some there are who understand the original languages of the Holy Scriptures, the discourses and tractates of the ancient Fathers, the determinations of the Councils, and history of the Church of God, the constant profession of settled truths, the rise and increase of schisms and heresies. Others there are unacquainted with such conceptions, and incapable of such instructions; who understand the Scriptures as they are translated; who are capable of the knowledge of the truths themselves, and of the proofs drawn from thence; who can apprehend the nature of the Christian faith, with the power and efficacy of the same, when it is delivered unto them out of the Word of God, and in a language which they know. When I make this difference and distinction of readers, I do not intend thereby, that because one of these is learned, the other is ignorant; for he which hath no skill of the learned languages, may notwithstanding be very knowing in the principles of Christian Religion, and the reason and efficacy of them.
According to this distinction I have contrived my Exposition, so that the body of it containeth fully what can be delivered and made intelligible in the English tongue, without inserting the least sentence or phrase of any learned language; by which he who is not acquainted with it might be disturbed in his reading, or interrupted in his understanding. Not that I have selected only such notions as are common, easy, and familiar of themselves, but have endeavoured to deliver the most material conceptions in the most plain and perspicuous manner; as desirous to comprise the whole strength of the work, as far as it is possible, in the body of it. The other part I have placed in the margin (but so as oftentimes it taketh up more room, and yet
• The marginal notes are, in this edition, placed at the bottom of the page.
is never mingled or confounded with the rest), in which is contained whatsoever is necessary for the illustration of any part of the CREED, as to them which have any knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and original languages, of the writings of the ancient Fathers, the doctrines of the Jews, and the history of the Church; those great advantages towards a right conception of the Christian Religion.
Now being the CREED comprehendeth the principles of our religion, it must contain those truths which belong unto it as it is a religion, and those which concern it as it is ours. As it is a religion, it delivereth such principles as are to be acknowledged in natural theology, such as no man which worshippeth a God can deny; and therefore in the proof of these, I have made use of such arguments and reasons as are most proper to oppose the atheists, who deny there is a God to be worshipped, a reliligion to be professed. As it is our religion, it is Christian and Catholick. As Christian, it containeth such truths as were delivered by Christ and his apostles, and those especially concerning Christ himself, which I have prosecuted constantly with an eye to the Jews, who obstinately deny them, expecting still another Messias to come; wherefore I shew out of the Law and the Prophets, which they acknowledge, what was foretold in every particular concerning the Messias, and prove all those to be completed by that Christ in whom we believe. As our religion is Catholick, it holdeth fast that "faith which was once delivered to the saints," and since preserved in the Church; and therefore I expound such verities, in opposition to the heretics arising in all ages, especially against the Photinians, who of all the rest have most perverted the Articles of our CREED, and found out followers in these latter ages, who have erected a new body of divinity in opposition to the Catholick theology. Against these I proceed upon such principles as they themselves allow, that is, upon the Word of God delivered in the Old and New Testament, alleged according to the true sense, and applied by right reason; not urging the authority of the Church which they reject, but only giving in the margin the sense of the primitive fathers, for the satisfaction of such as have any respect left for antiquity, and are persuaded that Christ had a true Church on the earth before these times.
In that part, which, after the demonstration of each truth, teacheth the necessity of the believing it, and the peculiar efficacy which it hath upon the life of a Christian, I have not thought fit to expatiate or enlarge myself, but only to mention such effects as flow naturally and immediately from the doctrine; especially such as are delivered in the Scriptures; which I have endeavoured to set forth with all possible plainness and perspicuity. And indeed in the whole work, as I have laid the foundation upon the written Word of God, so I have with much diligence collected such places of Scripture as are pertinent to each doctrine, and with great faithfulness delivered them as they lie in the writings of those holy penmen; not referring the reader to places named in the margin (which too often I find in many books multiplied to little purpose), but producing and interweaving the sentences of Scripture into the body of my Exposition, so that the reader may understand the strength of all my reason without any farther inquiry or consultation. For if those words which I have produced, prove not what I have intended, I desire not any to think there is more in the places named to maintain it.
At the conclusion of every distinct and several notion, I have recollected briefly and plainly the sum of what hath been delivered in the explication of it, and put it, as it were, into the mouth of every Christian, thereby to express more fully his faith, and to declare his profession. So that if the reader please to put those collections together, he may at once see and perceive what he is in the whole obliged to believe, and what he is by the Church of God understood to profess, when he maketh this public, ancient, and orthodox confession of faith.
I have nothing more to add ; but only to pray, that the Lord would give you and me a good understanding in all things.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Which was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into Hell, the third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: E believe in the Holy Ghost; The Poly Catholick Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of Sins; The Resurrection of the Body; And the Life everlasting.
EXPOSITION OF THE CREED.
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY,
As the first word CREDO, I believe, giveth a denomination to the whole confession of faith, from thence commonly called the CREED; so is the same word to be imagined not to stand only where it is expressed, but to be carried through the whole body of the confession. For though it be but twice actually rehearsed, yet must we conceive it virtually prefixed to the head of every article: that as we say, I believe in God the Father Almighty, so we are also understood to say, I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; as I believe in the Holy Ghost, so also I believe the Catholic Church. Neither is it to be joined. with every complete article only; but where any article is not a single verity, but comprehensive, there it is to be looked upon as affixed to every part, or single truth, contained in that article: as, for example, in the first, I believe in God, I believe that God to be the Father, I believe that Father to be Almighty, I believe that Father Almighty to be the Maker of heaven and earth. So that this Credo, I believe, rightly considered, multiplieth itself to no less than a double number of the articles, and will be found at least twenty-four times contained in the CREED, Wherefore, being a word so pregnant and diffusive, so necessary and essential to every part of our confession of faith, that without it we can neither have CREED nor Confession, it will require a more exact consideration, and more ample explication, and that in such a notion as is properly applicable to so many and so various truths.
Now by this previous expression, I believe, thus considered, every particular Christian is first taught, and then imagined, to make confession of his faith; and, consequently, this word, so used, admits a threefold consideration: First, As it supposeth belief, or faith, which is confessed. Secondly, As it is a confession, or external expression of that faith so supposed. Thirdly, as both the faith and confession are of necessary and particular obligation. When, therefore, we shall have clearly delivered, First, What is the true nature and notion of belief; Secondly, What the duty of confessing of our faith; Thirdly,
What obligation lies upon every particular person to believe and confess; then may we be conceived to have sufficiently explicated the first word of the CREED, then may every one understand what it is he says, and upon what ground he proceeds, when he professeth, I believe.
For the right understanding of the true nature of Christian faith, it will be no less than necessary to begin with the general notion of belief; which being first truly stated and defined, then by degrees deduced into its several kinds, will at last make the nature of Christian faith intelligible: a design, if I mistake not, not so ordinary and usual, as useful and necessary.
Belief in general I define to be an assent to that which is credible, as credible. By the word assent* is expressed that act or habit of the understanding, by which it receiveth, acknowledgeth, and embraceth any thing as a truth; it being the nature of the soul so to embrace whatsoever appeareth true unto it, and so far as it so appeareth. Now this assent, or judgment of any thing to be true, being a general act of the understanding, and so applicable to other habits thereof as well as to faith, must be specified by its proper object, and so limited and determined to its proper act, which is the other part left to complete the definition.
This object of faith is expressed by that which is credible; for every one who believeth any thing, doth thereby without question assent unto it as to that which is credible: and therefore all belief whatsoever is such a kind of assent. But though
* Πίστις δὲ πρόληψις ἑκούσιός ἑστιν, θεοσεβείας συγκατάθεσις. Clem. Αlex. Strom. I. ii. p. 156. lin. 17. ed. Commelin. 1592. Πίστις μὲν οὖν ἐστὶ συγκατάθεσις ἀδιάκριτος τῶν ἀκουσθέντων ἐν πληροφορίᾳ τῆς ἀληθείας τῶν κηρυχθέντων Θεοῦ χάριτι. S. Basil. Ascet. de Fide, c. 1. The Basilidians, 'Ogiζονται γοῦν οἱ ἀπὸ Βασιλείδου τὴν πίστιν ψυχῆς συγκατάθεσιν πρός τι τῶν μὴ κινούντων αἴσθησιν διὰ τὸ μὴ παρεῖναι. Clem. Αlex. Strom. 1. ii. p. 160. 11. Κατὰ δὲ τὸν ἡμέ τερον λόγον, πίστις ἐστὶν ἑκούσιος τῆς ψυχῆς συγκατάθεσις. Theodoret. Therap. Serm. 1. And yet he also afterward acknowledgeth they had that definition from the Greeks: Τὴν μὲν γὰρ πίστιν καὶ οἱ ὑμέτεροι φιλόσοφοι ὡρίσαντο εἶναι ἐθελούσιον τῆς ψυχῆς συγκατά θεσιν. • Credere est cum assensione cogitare,' S. August. de Prædestin. Sanct. §. 5. And de Spir. et Litter. ad Marcellin. lib. §. 54. Quid est credere, nisi consentire verum esse quod dicitur?' So I take the συγκατάθεσις used by the Greek fathers to signify assensum or assensionem, as A. Gellius translateth the Stoic, συγκατατίθεται, sua assensione approbat, l. xix. 1. and before him Cicero,' Nunc de assensione atque approbatione, quam Græci συγκατά Θεσιν vocant, pauca dicamus. In Lucullo, 6. 37. 50 ἀπιστία and συγκατάθεσις, are op
posed by the Greeks. As Sextus Empiricus, speaking of Admetus seeing Alcestis brought back by Hercules from Hades : Επεί μέντοι ήδει ὅτι τέθνηκε, περιεσπᾶτο αὐτοῦ ἡ διάνοια ἀπὸ τῆς συγκαταθέσεως, καὶ πρὸς ἀπιστίαν ἔκλινε. Pyrrh. Hypot. l. i. 33.
Η Φιλαλήθης ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδέποτε κατὰ τὸ ψεῦδος ἀνεχομένη διατίθεσθαι, ἀλλὰ κατὰ φανὲν ἀληθὲς πάντως καὶ εὐθύς. Simplic. in 3. Arist. de Anima. Καν τις τἀληθὲς σκοπῇ, εὑρήσει τὸν ἄνθρωπον φύσει διαβεβλημένον μὲν πρὸς τὴν τοῦ ψεύδους συγκατάθεσιν, ἔχοντα δὲ ἀφορμὰς πρὸς πίστιν τἀληθοῦς. Clem. Αlex. Strom. 1. ii. p. 165. 48.
† Ας συγκατάθεσις the Greek word used for this assent is applied to other acts of the understanding as well as that of belief, so Clemens Alexandrinus speaking of the definition of faith: "Αλλοι δ' ἀφανοῦς πράγματος ενωτικὴν συγκατάθεσιν ἀπέδωκαν εἶναι τὴν πίστιν, ὥσπερ ἀμέλει τὴν ἀπόδειξιν ἀγνοουμένου πράγματος φανερὰν συγ κατάθεσιν. Strom. 1. ii. p. 156. 21. And again: Πᾶσα οὖν δόξα, καὶ κρίσις, καὶ ὑπόληψις, καὶ μάθησις, οἷς ζῶμεν καὶ σύνεσμεν αἰεὶ, τῷ γένει τῶν ἀνθρώπων συγκατάθεσις ἐστιν· ἡ δ ̓ οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἡ πίστις εἴη ἄν· ἥ τε ἀπιστία, ἀποσύστασις οὖσα τῆς πίστεως, δυνατὴν δείκνυσι τὴν συγκατάθεσίν τε καὶ πί στιν. p. 165. 45.