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The Nicene, or Semi-Trinitarian The Apostles', Principally drawn up by the council of Nice or Unitarian Creed: 325 ; the clause concerning the Holy G
brackets [ ] having been affixed to it by th Being the creed of the two of Constantinople, in A. D.381, except t! first christian centuries. [and the Son), which were afterwards in
I believe in GOD,
the I believe in ONE GOD, the FE FATHER ALMIGH- ALMIGHTY, Maker of heaven an TY, Maker of heaven and of all things visible and invisible :and earth:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, t And in Jesus Christ, begotten Son of God; begotten of his his only Son our Lord: before all worlds; God of (or from who was conceived by the Light of (or from) LIGHT; Very G holy ghost (spirit), born from) VERY GOD; begotten, no of the virgin Mary, suf- being of one substance with the Fa fered under Pontius Pi- whom all things were made; who for late, was crucified, dead and for our salvation, came down from and buried; he descended and was incarnate by the Holy Gho into hell (the grave); the virgin Mary; and was made man third day he rose again crucified also for us under Pontius P from the dead; he ascend suffered, and was buried, and the ed into heaven, and sit- he rose again according to the se teth on the right hand of and ascended into heaven, and sittet GOD, the FATHER right hand of the FATHER: and ALMIGHTY: From come again with glory to judge both thence he shall come to and the dead; whose kingdom shal judge the quick and the end. dead:
And I believe in the Holy Gh I believe in the holy Lord and Giver of life; who proceed ghost (spirit); the holy the Father Cand the Son ;] who with t catholic (general) church; and the Son together is worshipped the communion of saints; fied; who spake by the prophets]. the forgiveness of sins ; And I believe one catholic and the resurrection of the church: I acknowledge one baptism body, and the life ever- mission of sins: and I look for the re lasting. Amen.
of the dead; and the life of the world Amen,
“The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that v
Of the three Creeds of the Church of England, viz., the Apostles' Creed,
the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, as the proof of a gradual change of opinion from Unitarianism to Trinitarianism, in the early centuries of the Church.
PROTESTANTS do not doubt, that many doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic church, having no authority from Scripture, must have crept into existence, at times, subsequent to the Apostolic age. I believe that the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, and that of a union of two natures in Jesus Christ, had a similar origin. I think that they formed no part of primitive Christianity, but were slowly, and step after step, introduced among its principles, during the second, third, and succeeding centuries. It is proposed in these pages to produce the evidence which supports this opinion. My design will be to show at what times, and under what circumstances, Trinitarian notions were first held, how they gradually spread, what resistance they encountered, the ground on which they were defended, and the causes of their conception.
A review of the three Creeds of the churches of Rome and England will form an introduction to this subject; for they distinctly indicate a gradual change of opinion from the simplicity of the gospel to the complex system of Trinitarianism. The first Creed is Unitarian ; the second is partly
the third and last contains Trinitarianism in its boldest and most complicated state. As two of these Creeds were originally drawn up to be public Confessions, and as the third, though at first it was private, was afterwards made common, they are worthy, on this account, to be attentively considered. In this chapter I intend to explain them, in the order in which they stand.
I. The Creed, bearing the name of the Apostles', was generally thought, from the fourth century downwards, for many hundred years, to have been composed by the twelve chosen followers of our Saviour.* But for several reasons this opinion has been abandoned. Still, however, the great antiquity of the Creed cannot reasonably be doubted, or that it is a work of nearly apostolical importance.f Irenæus, one of the disciples, second in succession after John, has been justly thought to refer to it when he speaks
* King's History of the Apostles' Creed, 4th ed. p. 25. + Ibid. p. 30. Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, vol. iv. p. 82.
of that Faith, or Rule of Truth, which the churches, though scattered over the earth, had received, and into which all believers were baptized, on acknowledging Christianity.* The copy, indeed, which this father
* has quoted, differs considerably from that now generally known. But this has been explained by supposing that Irenæus did not so much intend to give the form itself as a commentary on it, since in another part of his writings we find a different version of it, or rather a different commentary, on the same Creed.t It
appears that this form of faith was not at first committed to paper, but was used orally in the churches before baptism. In consequence of this, it is probable that it varied, in different places, in words, though not in substance, and that some additions also have been made to it since its first employment. Afterwards, when copies in writing had been taken of it, they were read before congregations as a part of the public worship.ll
With these provisions, we may admit, I think, this Creed as a monument, in some measure, of the faith of the first era of Christianity.
“ The Christian system,” says Dr Mosheim,“ as it was hitherto taught, (referring to the primitive age), preserved its native and beautiful simplicity, and was comprehended in a small number of articles. The public teachers inculcated no other doctrines than those that are contained in what is commonly called the Apostles' Creed: and in the method of illustrating them, all vain subtleties, all mysterious researches, every thing that was beyond the reach of common capacities, were carefully avoided. This will by no means appear surprising to those who consider, that, at this time, there was not the least controversy about those capital doctrines of Christianity which were afterwards so keenly debated in the church ; and who reflect, that the bishops of those primitive times were, for the most part, plain and illiterate men, remarkable rather for their piety and zeal than for their learning and eloquence.”'T
What, then, are the doctrines of the Apostles' Creed ? Are we recommended by it to believe in a three-one God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost ? No: but in God the Father only: 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.' What are we to acknowledge concerning Christ ? that he was co-eternal with the Father? co-equal with him ? like him, Almighty, and the Maker of heaven and earth ? No: but we are instructed to believe in Jesus Christ, his
Irenæus, lib. i. c. 2. p. 45. Apud Dr Priestley’s History of Early Opinions concerning Christ, vol. i. pp. 306, 307; see also Bingham's Antiquities, vol. iv.
of Dr Priestley's Hist. of Early Opinions, vol. i. pp. 305, 308. | King's History of the Creed, p. 32. § Bingham's Antiquities, vol. iv. pp. 75, 82. || King's History, p. 43. 1 Dr Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 183.