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The Apostles' Creed





The Apostles' Creed is a summary of those things which the Bible tells
us of God's Being. There can be no higher act of the soul of man than
to dwell Upon the Being and Attributes of God. It is a great step
upwards, to purify one's life from evil. But plainly it is a further
and higher step, to purify the soul: for the man who refuses to do
evil is not so far on as the man who refuses to feel and think
evil. It is however possible for him to reject evil only because it is
bad for himself. A life of selfishness may be wonderfully free from
the doing of evil. The Revelation in Jesus Christ is the Revelation of
God as the highest Aim, and of the Unselfish Life as the path to God.

A summary of what God has told us of His Being is most perfect for use
in Worship, when it is most free from discussion. A courtier is most
courtly when he is freest from doubts and suspicions of his king. {92}
The presence of discussion in a creed implies that there has been a
doubt.

The Apostles' Creed has no discussion in its clauses, and has been
called "The loving outburst of a loyal heart." (Harvey Goodwin.) It is
therefore the Creed of Worship and Praise.

The Nicene Creed is the Creed of Self-Examination. Discussion is
implied in some of its clauses.

The Athanasian Creed is a Guide to Thought concerning the nature of
God. It appeared on the scene at the close of many controversies--when
the Church had debated the various explanations of Revelation which had
been proposed, and was prepared to declare what God's children may
reverently say and think of their Father in Heaven. [See Chapter on
the Athanasian Creed.]

"I will worship toward thy holy temple and praise thy Name because of
thy lovingkindness and truth: for thou hast magnified thy Name and thy
Word above all things" (Ps. cxxxviii. 2). When used in Church Services
a Creed must always be regarded mainly as an Act of Praise to God.

The most evident characteristic of a Creed is that it says what we know
of God by His Revelation of Himself in the Bible.

Now, that which speaks of God must of necessity be a declaration of His
Worthiness--an Act of Worship.

We have already defined Praise as that kind of Worship wherein we think
of God, and not of ourselves.

Forasmuch as a Creed contains, chiefly or entirely, {93} the
proclamation of God's Nature and Being, it is the form in Worship which
is most entirely Praise.

The Apostles' Creed is so placed in the Morning and Evening Prayer as
to be the highest of several kinds of Praise.

The Psalms have a considerable mixture of thoughts of man, and of human
dependence on God.

The Old Testament Lesson, with its Respond, draws from Man's History
the joyful thoughts of God's mercy.

The New Testament Lesson, with its Respond, carries our Praise a degree
nearer to Perfect Peace and Joy in the Goodness of God through Christ.

The Apostles' Creed entirely omits the human element that we may
rejoice in God's Existence.

Other uses of Creeds. Creeds have been used for various purposes,
which may be classed as follows:

(a) Symbolum, or Examination.
(b) Self-Examination.
(c) Guide to Thought and Basis of Argument.
(d) Praise or Worship.

(a) In order to understand the word Symbolum, from which a Creed is
often called a Symbol, we must go back to the days when, for
persecution's sake, and lest they should unnecessarily cause their own
deaths, Christians met in secret, and required pass-words that they
might know one another.

To be admitted freely to the Christian assemblies a man had to know the
Creed as his pass-word (symbolum); which at Milan, and in other
Churches, was taught to the Catechumens, some three weeks before
Easter, and not written down. They recited it a {94} week later, and
then were taught the Lord's Prayer, in the time of S. Augustine. On
Easter Eve they recited it again, and were baptized. This use of the
Creed survives in the Baptism Services.

(b) Whereas we believe most firmly those things which we most
frequently remember, it is needful that we remember frequently the
Articles of the Creed. Hence Self-Examination requires not only the
consideration of our Conduct, but also the examination of our Faith.
In the Visitation of the Sick, and in Holy Communion, the Creeds are
used for Self-Examination.

(c) Since other thoughts are built up on those which we have about
God, it is usual amongst Christians to use the Articles of the Creed as
a Guide to what they are to think about themselves, and about the
World, and about the Evil and Good which are in the World. Their
arguments with one another rest upon the Creeds which are acknowledged
amongst them.

(d) But apart from all inferences and arguments, the facts about
God's Existence call forth from the heart of man joyful praise and
adoring worship.

The name by which God is declared to His People in Exodus is I AM. The
thoughts by which we too come nearest to Him are thoughts which declare
what HE IS. Thus the Apostles' Creed in Morning and Evening Prayer is
a Hymn of Praise.





Next: History Of The Apostles' Creed

Previous: The Creeds



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