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THE order prescribed to this exercise directs us to treat upon, first, The Creed; fecondly, The Lord's Prayer ; thirdly, The Decalogue; fourthly, The Sacraments; fifthly, The Power of the Keys.
The first comprehends the main principles of our religion, (I mean the Christian, as distinguished from all other religions,) with especial respect to which our practice is also to be regulated. The second directs us in the principal duty of our religion, (and which procures grace and ability to perform the rest,) our devotion toward God, informing us concerning both the matter and manner thereof. The third is a compendious body, as it were, of law, according to which we are bound to order our practice and conversation, both toward God and man; containing the chief of those perpetual and immutable laws of God, to which our obedience is indispensably due; and unto which all other rules of moral duty are well reducible. The next place is fitly allotted to those pofitive ordinances, or mystical rites, instituted by God for the ornament and advantage of our religion; the which we are obliged with devotion and edification of ourselves to ob serve, and therefore should understand the fignification and use of them. Lastly, because God hath ordered Christians (for mutual assistance and edification) to live in society together, and accordingly hath appointed differences of office and degree among them, assigning to each suitable privileges and duties, it is requisite we consider this point also, that we may know how to behave ourselves towards each other, as duty requires, respectively according to our stations in the Church, or as members of that Christian society. Such, in brief, may be the reason of the method prescribed to these discourses, the which, God willing, we purpose to follow.
1. Concerning the Creed. That, in the primitive churches, those who being of age (after previous instruction, and some trial of their conversation) were received into entire communion of the Church, and admitted to baptism, were required to make open profession of their being persuaded of the truth of Christianity, and their being resolved to live according thereto; and that this profession was made by way of answer to certain interrogatories propounded to them, is evident by frequent and obvious testimonies of the most ancient ecclesiastical writers; and St. Peter himself seems
to allude to this custom, when he faith that baptism saves 1 Pet. iii. us, (conduces to our salvation,) as being énepárnua ayatns
ouvadows, the stipulation, freely and sincerely, bona fide,
the deacon and the Ethiopian eunuch: where, after Philip Acts viii. had instructed the eunuch, the eunuch first speaks; Be
hold water; what hinders me from being baptized ? Philip answers, If thou believest with all thy heart, it is lawful: the eunuch replies; I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God: upon which short confession of his faith he is baptized.) Now that this profession, (take it either for the action, or the entire res gesta; or for the form, or for the matter thereof; to all which indifferently, by metonymical schemes of speech, the same words are usually in such cases applied,) that this profession, I say, was very anciently in the Roman especially, and some other churches) called Symbolum, appears by those remarkable words of Cyprian (the most ancient perhaps wherein this word is found applied to this matter) in his seventy-fixth Epistle ad Magnum, arguing against the validity of baptism administered by heretics and schismatics, (such as were the Novatians ;) Quod fi aliquis illud opponit, ut dicat, eandem Novatianum legem tenere, quam Catholica Eccleña teneat, eodem Symbolo quo et nos baptizare, eundem nóle Deum patrem, eundem filium Christum, eundem Spiritum Sanctum, ac propter hoc ufurpare eam poteftatem baptizandi polle, quod videatur in interrogatione baptifmi a nobis non discrepare, sciat quisquis hoc opponendum putat, primum non ele unam nobis et schismaticis symboli legem, neque eandem interrogationem. Where those expressions, Eodem Symbolo baptizare, and In interrogatione baptismi non discrepare ; as also, Una symboli lex, and Eadem interrogatio, do seem to mean the same thing: and in other later writers the same manner of speaking doth sometimes occur; as when Hilary thus prays; Conserva hanc confcientiæ meæ vocem, 12. de Trin. ut quod in regenerationis mere symbolo, baptizatus in Patre, et Filio, et Spiritu S. professus fum, semper obtineam : where regenerationis fuæ Symbolum doth seem to import, that contestation of his faith, which he folemnly made at his baptism. Now the reason why this profession was so called may seem to be, for that it was a solemn signification of his embracing the doctrine and law of Christ; even as Aristotle calls words, cúp bona tūv év tñ fux ñ waunuárov, the symbols or representations of the conceptions that are in the mind : this seems to be the most simple reason of
this term being so used: but if the fimplicity of this notion doth not satisfy, there is another very agreeable to the nature of the thing, not wanting the countenance of some
good authority. The word ovu baanw doth in the best Plato, De. Greek writers not uncommonly fignify, to tranfact com
es, merce, to make contract, to agree about any bargain or
business; and the word ovubórasoy (thence derived) doth, according to most common use, denote any contract or covenant made between two parties : now, that the stipulation made between a person by baptism initiated and received into Christianity, and God Almighty, (or the Church in his behalf,) may most appositely be called a covenant or contract, none, I suppose, will doubt; wherein we confess faith, and promise obedience; God vouchsafes present mercy, promises grace and future reward : and that the word cúp boxov should hence import thus much, we cannot much wonder, if we have observed how commonly words are wont to borrow fignification from their
kindred and neighbours : and thus Chrysologus plainly Serm. 62. interprets the meaning of the word; Placitum, vel pactum, pag. 16. 2. faith he, quod lucri Spes venientis continet vel futuri, Sym
bolum nuncupari etiam contractu docemur humano ; quod tamen Symbolum inter duos firmat semper geminata conScriptio inter Deum vero et homines Symbolum fidei fola fide firmatur; and commonly in his sermons upon this Creed) he styles it pactum fidei. Ruffinus indeed tells us, (and divers after him,) that the reason why this Creed was called Symbolum, or indicium, is, because it was devised as a mark to distinguish the genuine teachers of the Christian doctrine from fuch false teachers, as did adulte
rate or corrupt it; or because it was a kind of military * Cogni- *token, (a badge, as it were, or a watch-word,) by which zance. the true friends of Christianity might be discriminated and Maximus discerned from the enemies thereof; Symbolum tesera eft fis.
et hgnaculum, quo inter fideles perfidofque fecernitur. But if we consider the brevity and simplicity of the ancient forms, unsuitable to such a design, it may feem more probable, that it was intended, not so much to separate Chriftians from each other, as to distinguish them from all of
other religions; or more simply, as we said, to be a mark, whereby the person converted to Christianity did signify, that he did fincerely embrace it, consenting to the capital doctrines thereof, and engaging obedience to its laws. Indeed afterward (when it was commonly observed, that almost any kind of heretics, without evident repugnance to their particular opinions, could conform to those short and general forms, to exclude, or prevent compliance with them) occasion was taken to enlarge the ancient forms, or to frame new ones, (more full and explicit,) to be used, as formerly, at baptism. But (to leave farther consideration of the name, and to pursue what more concerns the thing) for the more ancient forms, wherein the forementioned profession was conceived, it seems that in several places and times they did somewhat vary, receiving alteration and increase, according to the discretion of those who did preside in each Churcha; the principal however and more fubftantial parts (which had especial direction and authority from the words and practice of our Saviour and his Apostles) being every where and at all times retained; (those, namely, which concerned the Persons of the holy Trinity, and the great promises of the Gospel; remiffion of fins, to be ministered here by the Church; and eternal life, to be conferred hereafter by God upon those who had constantly believed and obeyed the Gospel.) That in the more ancient times there was no one form, generally fixed and agreed upon, (to omit other arguments that persuade it,) is hence probable, for that the most learned and generally knowing persons of those times, when in their apologies against disbelievers for Christianity, or in their assertions of its genuine principles and doctrines against misbelievers, they by the nature and sequel of their discourse are engaged to sum up the principal doctrines of our religion, they do not yet (as reason did require, and they could hardly have avoided doing, had there been any such constantly and universally settled or
a His additur indivisbilem et impaffbilem : fciendum quod duo illi sermones in Ecclefiæ Romanæ fymbolo non habentur, conftat autem apud nos additos hærefeos causa Sabellii, &c. Ruff. in Sym.